League Cup Preview: Cliftonville chasing fifth league cup success

Gerard Lyttle's Cliftonville side face Glenavon in the JBE League Cup quarter-finals
Sean O'Neill

CLIFTONVILLE have won the last four Irish League Cups, but their bid to make the last four of this season’s competition is sure to meet a stern challenge against Glenavon at Mourneview Park tonight (7.45pm).

Although the Reds were 3-0 winners when the clubs met in the league at Solitude at the end of last month, Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle knows just what to expect in Lurgan.

“They’ve a good manager and they’ve good players,” declared Lyttle.

“They’re a big physical team, they like to get the ball forward quick into the box, and they’re strong on their set plays – so it’s all stuff that we know. We’ve played them an awful lot. In the games that we’ve played against them, they’ve always been entertaining and good games with plenty of goals.

“We were very unfortunate down there at Mourneview the last time we played them. We didn’t get the rub of the green in terms of decisions. We took the lead twice, and we went down to 10 men as well.

“It’s a night game under the floodlights. I am sure it’ll be a good atmosphere – it’s the quarter-final of the cup. The boys are looking forward to it and it’s a big week for us. We’ve this and we’ve Linfield coming up as well, but we’ll focus on this first.”

Cliftonville have been in decent form in the league and have won seven of their last 10 outings. They will, however, have to do without a few key performers this evening.

“We’re struggling a wee bit to be honest,” said Lyttle.

“Daniel Hughes is still out – he was out on Saturday, and he’ll be out for this match. Ruairi Harkin is out as well, Jay Donnelly’s out and [there are] a couple of other wee doubtful ones, but that’s what we’ve got the squad for and we’ll have to use the lads who are available.

“And the boys who are coming in – I’m sure they won’t let the team down and won’t let themselves down.

“It seems to be a cup that we enjoy, so hopefully we can keep that amazing run going for another season. Tonight’s going to be a huge challenge to allow us to do that, so we’ll give it a good go.”

Elsewhere tonight, there are three other quarter-final ties down for decision. Crusaders make the trip north to face Coleraine (7.45pm), with both sides coming into the game following 1-0 weekend league wins.

Crusaders are the last team, other than Cliftonville, to win this competition when they beat the Bannsiders in the 2012 final. When the teams last met, a single goal from Jordan Owens separated them at Seaview.

Ballymena United, who disposed of Linfield 4-1 in the last round, travel to county Down to take on Warrenpoint Town (7.45pm). The Seasiders are now managed by former Ballymena United player, Matthew Tipton, who took over from Barry Gray on Saturday.

The other quarter-final pits Carrick Rangers against Dungannon Swifts at the Belfast Loughshore Arena (8pm).


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