Coleraine trip is hardest of season so far for Cliftonville - Gerard Lyttle
Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine v Cliftonville (Friday, 7.45pm)
CLIFTONVILLE boss Gerard Lyttle says Friday's trip to the Showgrounds is the Reds' "hardest game of the season so far".
The north Belfast side are one of the hot teams in the league at present - with their form of four wins and a draw from their last five league games only being matched by leaders Crusaders.
A win on Friday evening would make it four wins on the bounce and move them into second place in the table. That is the tantalising prize on offer for Cliftonville, although their manager, with good reason sees a potential banana skin on the horizon.
Coleraine can close to within two points of Lyttle's men if they take the three points, and they are on a recovery mission after slipping up, surprisingly against Carrick Rangers last weekend.
"I see it as the hardest game of the season so far," insisted Lyttle.
"We seem to struggle against Coleraine. It’s always a hard place to go to. So we have got to approach it with care and we’ve got to approach it in the right manner. Everything has to be spot on in terms of preparation.
"It’s going to be a poor pitch, it’s a Friday night, it’s going to be different to what we’re used to in terms of preparing players for the game - eating properly, travelling and all the rest of it.
"So everything is sort of against us, but everybody’s under-estimated us this year in terms of the big games and we’ve delivered, so hopefully tonight we can do the same and deliver another good performance and hopefully a win.
"They’re coming off the back of a bad defeat last week, which was unexpected, against Carrick, so it’s going to be a tough one. We’re not expecting to go there and for it to be an easy three points. There’s no way that’s going to happen."
Cliftonville's good run of late has been characterised by no little grit and determination allied to the undoubted talent within their ranks. Lyttle is certain that honesty of effort will be much needed again tonight.
"If we want to get the three points, we’re going to have to earn them," he declared.
"We’re going to have to fight for everything, we’re going to have to be clued in for 90 minutes and be able to battle and fight for every lost cause, every ball, everything that’s going.
"And that’s the type of attitude we’ll be going there with. We’re the team in form - we’re the team with that wee bit of momentum going for us at the minute, and hopefully tonight we can carry that through."
When these two last met at the Showgrounds, Oran Kearney's side were 3-0 winners, and although Lytlle is right to be wary, his team can continue their ascent up the standings with a win tonight.
Also in action on Friday night are Glenavon, who take on Dungannon Swifts at Mourneview Park and Ards, who are at home to Ballinamallard United.
The last time that Gary Hamilton and Rodney McAree's men squared off, three players were sent off. That game finished in a 1-1 draw but was a first point for the Swifts against the Lurgan side in five games. Glenavon have been in inconsistent league form but Dungannon are worse off with just one league win from their last seven outings. A draw may be the result again.
Both Ards and Ballinamallard are in poor form and on significant losing runs. They are both therefore desperate for points. Their last meeting was at Ferney Park in September when the Mallards recorded a 2-1 win.
Home advantage may reverse that result for Niall Currie's men.