Belfast Telegraph

Solitude set to give Reds upper hand, says Curran

Cliftonville v Glentoran, Europa League Play-Off Final, Solitude, Tomorrow, 5.30pm

Hands on: Chris Curran will get to grips with Glentoran’s John Herron again tomorrow
Hands on: Chris Curran will get to grips with Glentoran’s John Herron again tomorrow

By Alex Mills

Cliftonville skipper Chris Curran believes his team can take advantage of home comforts in tomorrow's Europa League play-off showdown with Glentoran at Solitude.

Both sides emerged from dramatic midweek semi-final ties, with the Reds grabbing a sensational 5-3 extra-time win against Coleraine and Glentoran flexing their muscles with an impressive 4-2 victory at Glenavon.

It's the third time in four years the clubs have met at this particular juncture and it was the Reds who pocketed the pot of gold on both previous occasions - it could be worth around £200,000 to the winners this year.

However, they face a different animal in Glentoran this time. Under new boss Mick McDermott, the east Belfast men are unbeaten in six outings and, having swatted away the challenge of Gary Hamilton's Lurgan Blues in emphatic style, they'll be travelling across town oozing with confidence.

"There's been a lot of changes at the club with McDermott and Paul Millar taking over, they have changed the style and brought a different atmosphere to the club," said Curran.

"Although they (Glentoran) were playing in the bottom six, they have remained undefeated and have really pushed on. They have gained confidence and they are scoring goals. Everything is now in their favour.

"We know all about them, we know where the threat will come from. The front three (Darren Murray, Curtis Allen and Robbie McDaid) are as good as there is in the league. They are dangerous players and we'll be giving them all the respect they deserve.

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"When you finish in that seventh position, you go into the play-offs with nothing to lose. I think that showed with their performance against Glenavon.

"They'll be ready on Saturday, I don't think they'll fear any team.

"I know Glenavon finished well ahead of them, so it just proves when it comes to the play-offs, it can become a lottery.

"Everything that's gone on counts for nothing - it's now down to a one-off game.

"They'll still be smarting from last year when they lost to us at Solitude, so I'm sure they'll be coming looking for revenge."

Cliftonville, however, are unbeaten in north Belfast since Paddy McLaughlin took over in February - replacing Barry Gray - and Curran is determined to keep that excellent form intact.

"I think, outside of Linfield, we have one of the best home records in the division," he added. "Hopefully we can use that to our advantage on Saturday.

"There is a massive prize pot at the end of it, so it has the makings of an absolute blockbuster.

"The play-offs are certainly value for money - the two semi-final games were fantastic.

"It was a crazy, crazy night for both sides. It was great entertainment. Some of the goals from both games were up there with the best strikes of the season."

It took a 96th-minute penalty from Ryan Curran to salvage a 3-3 draw for the Reds, but Chris Curran reckons once it was converted, there was only going to be one winner.

He added: "It was a mad night. We were staring down the barrel of defeat. The end of our season was rapidly closing in on us.

"Once their third goal went in, you have to applaud. I questioned myself because I was the closest one to James McLaughlin. I asked myself what could I have done, but there was nothing anyone could have done.

"There was so much quality and entertainment on the night from both teams, it really was harsh on the team that lost. I'm sure Coleraine are still hurting, but it could easily have been us.

"I think relief is the right word to use. We were happy just to get through to give ourselves a chance to win the final.

"It probably was a game we would have lost earlier in the season, so the boys must be given great credit for going right to the final whistle.

"I think we got what we deserved simply for our never-say-die attitude. It's something we now have in the locker - we are a bit tougher mentally. Hopefully that will see us through Saturday as well."

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