Football/Soccer

Danske Bank Premiership: Gerard Lyttle demands more

 Ryan Catney may miss this afternoon's trip to Ballinamallard United
Picture by Pacemaker
Andy Watters

Danske Bank Premiership: Ballinamallard United v Cliftonville (today, 3pm)

GERARD Lyttle didn’t mince his words after he got his players into the Solitude changingrooms at half-time last Saturday.

The Cliftonville manager got the hairdryer out and told his under-performing Reds, who trailed 1-0 to Dungannon Swifts, that “eight or nine of them” were candidates for being substituted.

The Reds improved somewhat after the break, but lost 2-1 and Lyttle expects a reaction to the defeat this afternoon when Cliftonville travel to Fermanagh to take on a Ballinamallard side that has gleaned just a point from four outings so far this season.

“It’s frustrating form at the minute,” said Lyttle.

“At the start of the season we drew with Ards (2-2), got a good result against Glentoran (2-0) and we were unlucky against Glenavon (3-2) and then last week’s result against Dungannon was just brutal.

“We’re looking to get back on track and start winning games and create a wee bit of momentum. Hopefully tomorrow is the start of that.”

Only four games into the season it’s far too early to panic, but Lyttle was disappointed with the workrate of his players in last Saturday’s loss.

“It was very flat – on the day it was just a flat, flat performance,” he said.

“We didn’t look anywhere near the team that we’re trying to build; we didn’t pass the ball, we didn’t do the things we were asked to do.

“But the most disappointing thing was the workrate, we didn’t work anywhere near as hard as what we should have. In my teams the first thing I like to set up is hard work and if you don’t have that mentality then you’ll be up against it.

“On Saturday we didn’t work harder than the opposition and therefore we got beat.”

Cliftonville could be without Ryan Catney for today’s game. Catney, an ever-present this season, is rated touch-and-go while James Knowles and Daniel Hughes are both ruled out with ankle injuries. Chris Ramsey will also miss out although Lyttle expects to have him available by next weekend.

“I’ve three or four players who won’t be available but we have a capable-enough squad there for others to come in and they’ll take their chance hopefully,” said the Cliftonville boss who intends to make changes for the trip.

“I’m the manager and I’m in it with the boys, but we just can’t perform the way we did against Dungannon,” said ‘Skin’, a former Cliftonville player.

“There has to be changes, you can’t keep putting the same team out and expect different results so we’re looking to freshen up and hopefully put a bit of pressure on the rest of the players.

“We got a response after the first game, we were really disappointed with the points dropped to Ards in the first game of the season and we played Glentoran that Wednesday night and got an unbelievable response from the boys.

“I expect the same for tomorrow. We’ve trained really well this week, training has been upbeat, the tempo has been good and hopefully that’ll lead into the game.

“We have to have a response from last week and hopefully we do get it.”

Lyttle was in his third game as caretaker manager when Cliftonville won at Ballinamallard last season.

“We’re expecting a hard game,” he said.

“They gave Linfield a tight game at the start of the season, Linfield narrowly won 2-1, and the got a good point last week against Carrick so we’re not expecting to go down there and have an easy Saturday.

“We’ll just focus on ourselves and what we can do and hopefully on the day that’s enough.”

Crusaders v Portadown (3pm)

SECOND-from-top Crusaders should return to winning ways when they host rock bottom Portadown at Seaview this afternoon.

The Ports are clawing their way back up to zero after the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee docked the club 12 points for paying Peter McMahon last season while he was registered as an amateur.

A win over Ballinamallard dragged Pat McGibbon’s side up to minus nine, but 1-0 losses to Ards and Glentoran have left them struggling for form and confidence.

Meanwhile, the Crues have back-to-back titles under their belts and are still unbeaten this season. They signalled their intent with a 6-0 trouncing of Ballymena on the opening day of the season and followed that up with a 4-1 win against Carrick. Since then their form has dipped: Linfield held them to a 0-0 draw and Coleraine rode their luck to take a point at the Showgrounds last weekend.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts (3pm)

DUNGANNON Swifts travel to Windsor Park on the back of two wins on-the-trot after last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Solitude followed their 4-0 thumping of Coleraine.

Manager Rodney McAree has added some experience to the squad with former Rangers star Chris Hegarty and Seanan Clucas coming in and both have made their presence felt already.

Meanwhile, David Healy’s unbeaten Blues go into the game full of confidence after putting four goals past Glenavon last Saturday. Former Northern Ireland international Josh Carson opened the scoring in the first half and an Aaron Burns double and another from Sean Ward sealed an emphatic win for the side who start as favourites this afternoon.

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