Football/Soccer

Liam Bagnall expecting see a few familiar faces as Cliftonville welcome Warrenpoint

Former Sunderland youth player Liam Bagnall made the switch from Warrenpoint Town to Cliftonville during the summer. Picture by Pacemaker

Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town (today, 3pm, Solitude)

CLIFTONVILLE may have only one game this weekend, but midfielder Liam Bagnall is hoping for two big results in the coming days.

First and foremost, the Reds look to keep up their winning run against Warrenpoint Town this afternoon, the first time Bagnall will have faced his old club since making a summer switch to Solitude.

After that though, focus turns to the Republic of Ireland’s make-or-break showdown with Wales in Cardiff, when Bagnall hopes to cheer on a host of former comrades to a 2018 World Cup play-off shot.

Former Sunderland trainee Bagnall passed up on an offer of tickets to last night’s game against Moldova, but will be tuned in on Monday night.

“Martin O’Neill would have been over the first team for a time when I was at Sunderland, and then Conor Hourihane was on the same youth team. He got his move to Villa and he’s doing well, he has a serious left foot on him.

“David Meyler was there too, and then John O’Shea sort of looked out for all the young Irish guys. There were no airs or graces about him or anything like that, just a great fella.

“So hopefully they can get the job done, but it’s going to be tight.”

Current form lines suggest it might not be as close at Solitude today.

While the Reds have registered three wins in-a-row, including a stunning comeback victory over Linfield last weekend, Warrenpoint have picked up just one point since August and hover just above Ballinamallard United at the foot of the table.

But, having spent three seasons at Milltown, Bagnall and new Cliftonville boss Barry Gray – a former Warrenpoint manager and director – will know exactly what Matthew Tipton’s side is capable of.

Bagnall will be coming up against several of the men he soldiered alongside in years gone by, and admits it will be “a bit strange”.

“I’ve never done it before, playing against a former club, and it’s strange when you know people so well,” he said.

“I’m good friends with a lot of the boys still. Stevie Moan and I would’ve travelled together, Johnny Parr would’ve been there from the start when I was there. Conor McMenamin I’d be friendly with too.

“Having said that, there’s been a right few changes so there could be five or six playing who I wouldn’t have known. It’ll be a bit strange but you just have to be professional about the situation and do the job I have to do for Cliftonville.”

And, after a rocky start for Gray, things are starting to look up for the Reds.

Coming from two down to beat David Healy’s defending champions was a huge result, but the come-from-behind victory over Carrick the week before really started the ball rolling, according to Bagnall.

“That game maybe didn’t grab the headlines the same way, but we were 1-0 down, not playing overly well, and Joe [Gormley] came on and scored twice,” recalls the 25-year-old.

“Everyone got a wee lift from that and we took that into the Linfield game. At 2-0 down you were thinking ‘how has that happened?’ because we were the better team, but thankfully we got the goals we were looking for.

“If that doesn’t give the boys confidence, nothing will, and now we have to push on and keep going from strength-to-strength.”

Elsewhere, Glentoran look to bounce back from Monday night’s 3-0 home defeat to Crusaders when they face Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena.

Colin Nixon’s side go into the game buoyed by their second league win of the season last weekend against basement dwellers Ballinamallard.

In today’s other Danske Bank Premiership game, Dungannon Swifts welcome Ballymena Utd to Stangmore Park for a mid-table clash.

The Swifts are unbeaten since losing to Cliftonville at the start of September, with David Jeffrey’s Braidmen coming off a 2-0 home defeat to table-topping Coleraine.

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