Hale brothers look to keep 'Red' hot streak going as Cliftonville host Crusaders in derby clash

Cliftonville's Rory Hale bagged a hat-trick against Newry City last Saturday before brother Ronan put four past Carrick on Tuesday night
Cliftonville's Rory Hale bagged a hat-trick against Newry City last Saturday before brother Ronan put four past Carrick on Tuesday night

Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville v Crusaders (tonight, 7.45pm)

TOP spot in the Danske Bank Premiership is up for grabs with the league's top four clubs in action tonight and Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin has his focus firmly on three points against north Belfast rivals Crusaders.

The fourth-placed Shore Road men travel to Solitude tonight with the Reds top of the the table, but with Larne and Glentoran in action and just two point separating the top four teams in the league, there is no room for slip-ups according to McLaughlin.

Having won all their league games to date following opening day defeat to Coleraine, Cliftonville maintained that good form with a 6-0 thumping of in-form Carrick Rangers in the BetMcLean League Cup on Tuesday night. With games against Larne and Coleraine on the horizon, McLaughlin feels it is vital they continue their winning ways against Crusaders to keep their title challenge on track.

“We’re on a roll and a good run at the minute” said McLaughlin.

"The confidence is high, and the form is good, but we’ve got a tough run of the fixtures coming up. It’s important that we stay focused on the next game, the next game is always your most important game and it’s important that focus fully on Crusaders and prepare for what it’s going to be.

“It’s going to be a tough battle and a physical battle; we know what their strengths are - but we also know what their weaknesses are as well and it’s a game we feel we can win if we keep playing and playing the way we are at the minute and scoring goals. I’m looking forward to it, I’m sure the fans are – the players certainly are and we can’t wait to get on the pitch now against Crusaders”.

Those six goals against Carrick followed a 4-0 league win over Newry City the previous Saturday. Rory Hale was the hat-trick hero against Newry but his brother Ronan went one better on Tuesday night, netting four against Carrick.

“Ronan scoring four was brilliant for him because Rory was starting to get carried away with himself for a couple of days – thinking was the main man in the house – now Ronan has shown that he is the goal scorer in the family” said McLaughlin.

“The two of them have been brilliant, Ronan has been superb since we’ve brought him in. He scores goals and his assists; he is direct and hard to play against – he terrifies defenders and his run of form at the minute since he’s came to the club has been superb.

“He’s been a target for a long time and fair play to the club. They worked their socks off getting it done in the summer and he’s proven his worth so far with 10 goals and we’ve only entered October.

“That’s an unbelievable return for any striker in any division, he will score plenty more because he is playing with good players and exciting players – who will create chances for him. He is lethal and clinical in front of goal. With him, Joe [Gormley], Ryan [Curran], [Jamie] McDonagh and Rory, we’ve got brilliant options when we attack and it’s important that we keep them firing and keep them fit."

Elsewhere tonight, second-place Larne travel to Newry City while Glentoran host Carrick Rangers at the Oval.