Crues and Ports have their eyes on DC duo Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter has made an official approach for Donegal Celtic midfielder Eamon McAllister ahead of tonight’s clash between the two sides at Celtic Park (7.45).
As well as the north-Belfast club declaring an interest in taking McAllister back to the Shore Road, Portadown have requested permission to talk to striker Darren Murray.
Hoops boss Paddy Kelly, who will seek to record a rare victory over Crusaders, is hopeful both players will remain at the club.
He added: “I will be telling both Eamon and Darren that they are valued and wanted at Donegal Celtic. They are very much part of a team we are trying to build — one that chases bigger prizes in the game.”
The Celtic boss has allowed Conor Glenholmes to join Championship side Bangor, but he wants to hold onto his current players, who seek a top-six finish in the Carling Premiership.
Kelly’s gang are just eight points behind sixth-place Glentoran and could close that gap to five this evening. However, overcoming an in-form Crusaders side that recorded victories over Cliftonville and Portadown during the festive break will be a mountainous task.
“To beat Crusaders you have to match them physically and then you have to cut out the supply to their front men, who are big and strong and usually win their wars with defenders,” said Kelly.
“If you don’t cut out guys like Chris Morrow and Stuart Dallas, they will punish you.”
Celtic picked up four points from their two holiday fixtures, defeating Lisburn Distillery and drawing at Ballymena United. Despite amassing more points (30) than in all of last season, Kelly says survival in the Premiership is “far from confirmed”.
He added: “Two defeats and you can get dragged back into the relegation fight. We have got to believe that we can achieve a top six finish, but at the same time we are looking over our shoulders at what is going on behind us.”