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Garrett sure to escape Cliftonville New Year axe

While a number of Cliftonville players will be looking over their shoulders in the run-up to the January transfer window, one man can sleep secure in the knowledge he won't fall victim to Eddie Patterson's axe-wielding.

The Reds boss has acknowledged that the time has come for his long-serving squad to be shaken up but insists that striker Stephen Garrett's future is secure.

“He's the first name on the teamsheet as far as I'm concerned,” said Patterson ahead of this evening' Carling Premiership showdown with Linfield.

“Stephen has been absolutely first class since he came to this club and you know what you're going to get from him and that's plenty of honesty, endeavour and hard work.

“His movement is top class, he never stops running and there's no such thing as a lost cause for him — he chases everything, is constantly giving defenders a headache and, whenever he gets kicked or knocked about, he picks himself up and comes back for more. I can't praise him highly enough.”

Garrett, who began his career with the Blues before switching to Newry City from whom he joined Cliftonville in the summer, was one of the few Reds players to emerge from last weekend's defeat to Glentoran with any real credit and Patterson is hoping for a collective team reaction tonight.

“People know they are playing for their futures now and, to be fair to them, I've never been able to question their commitment or their hunger to do well for this club but there comes a time when decisions have to be made.

“The majority of this squad have been here for a long time. They've shown good loyalty to us and I'd like to think we've been good to them as well but, at the end of the day, when it comes to performances and results, the buck stops with the manager and I have to do whatever I can to improve things.”

Cliftonville have not enjoyed a great home record since Solitude's infamous mud pitch was replaced with a synthetic surface in the summer but Patterson believes a change in fortunes isn't too far around the corner.

“The Glentoran game aside, we've been playing decent enough without ever really hitting the heights. Putting the ball in the net has been our biggest problem and I thought that facing the Glens at home in a cup quarter-final in front of a big crowd might have triggered something but we just didn't get going.

“We're still waiting for that spark to ignite fully and I know the boys are just as keen as myself and the supporters are for us to get ourselves back on track when we play Linfield.”

Belfast Telegraph