Belfast Telegraph

Heat firmly on Cliftonville, claims Craig McClean

By Graham Luney

Craig McClean insists all the pressure is on Cliftonville in the Wasp Solutions League Cup Final – because the Reds are at home.

The Crusaders defender is relishing the chance to get to grips with Joe Gormley, Liam Boyce and co. but he feels the league champions should be feeling the heat in front of a home audience.

Stephen Baxter's side won 2-0 at Solitude in a league clash in October when Jordan Owens and Paul Heatley got on the scoresheet but the Reds have already struck the first psychological blow by winning the coin toss.

Solitude will be packed to the rafters and McClean is hoping the Hatchetmen can get their hands on the prize for only the third time in the club's history.

"It's a massive game and everyone at the club is looking forward to it," said the former Dungannon Swifts ace, who has put pen to paper in a new deal that will see him play on the Shore Road for another two seasons.

"We won at Solitude the last time we played there so there is nothing to fear.

"If anything I think there will be more pressure on Cliftonville to perform on their own patch and make home advantage count.

"Certainly we are familiar with the surface and have performed well on it before."

Left-back McClean will need to keep star strikers Boyce and Gormley in his sights but the Monkstown man says he will have more Reds players than those two on his mind.

"They are two quality players but Cliftonville boast a much bigger threat than those two," added the 28-year-old.

"They have guys like Chris Scannell, Marty Donnelly and Diarmuid O'Carroll who can hurt you so we will need to be solid defensively. We have been well organised, so if we can achieve that and stick to our gameplan then we could finish on top.

"I'm still waiting on my first senior trophy and this is the reason why I came to Crusaders so hopefully the wait ends for me.

"The Crues were relegated nearly 10 years ago so it's great for the club to be involved in these occasions."

Most of the Crues players have painful memories of last season's 4-0 drubbing in the League Cup Final dished out by the Reds at Windsor Park.

"I played in that 4-0 game and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Nothing went right for us on the day and Cliftonville were deserved winners," added McClean.

"But that is history now and we go into every game believing we can win it.

"It's just unfortunate that we weren't close to winning the league title last season as we finished on about 83 points and any other year it might have been enough but Cliftonville were just too strong.

"But if anything that has inspired us to be even better and work harder to get rewards."

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