Football/Soccer

Changes for Shield tie won't affect our momentum: Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin

.Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin has heaped praise on the club's supporters from their noisy backing

ToalsBet.Com Co Antrim Shield quarter-finals: Cliftonville v Bangor (tonight, Solitude, 7.45pm)

CLIFTONVILLE manager Paddy McLaughlin has no hesitation in shaking up his team selection ahead of tonight's Co Antrim Shield quarter-final with Bangor despite their unbeaten start to the season.

The high-flying Reds sit at the top of the Premiership after eight games and while there might be the temptation to stick with a winning formula and maintain momentum, McLaughlin is likely to make a few changes to the side that scored a brilliant 2-1 league victory over Larne last weekend.

Chris Curran, Daniel Kearns, Paul O'Neill, Jamie Harney and Aaron Donnelly were among the Cliftonville substitutes and they could get minutes this evening.

Lee Feeney's Bangor side have made a strong start to their Premier Intermediate League campaign, winning their first four games and edged out PSNI in their Shield opener, while their hosts tonight knocked nine past Knockbreda.

“Obviously it gives me the opportunity to play players who weren't playing on Saturday and were disappointed, and rightly so because they're all good enough to play,” said McLaughlin.

“In the past we probably had players who were not ready to play but you've definitely got a headache trying to the pick the team every week. We've a squad of 20 players who are all more than capable of taking the jersey of the man in front of them.

“We need competition; we need players match-fit so that everybody is ready to go. We have good players replacing good players and it doesn't affect the team in any way at all.”

Levi Ives suffered ankle ligament damage during the first half of the Larne tie with Aaron Donnelly coming in and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

McLaughlin, who will celebrate three years as Solitude boss next February, has heaped praise on the Reds supporters for their vocal backing in their early ascension to the top of the league.

“There is an unbelievable buzz around the ground on match-day and the players are feeding off that energy,” he said.

“People think I'm just trying to whip up the crowd but I'm definitely not, they're playing a huge part in how well the team is playing and I hope it continues. The players can't wait to get on the pitch to put on a performance for them.

“We're not getting carried away with ourselves, we're on a good run, there are going to be difficult days ahead but we're enjoying these good times.”

Linfield host Championship strugglers Dundela in their Shield quarter-final, Ballyclare Comrades will look to upset the odds at home to Crusaders and Larne are hoping to bounce back to winning ways at Ballymena United.

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Football/Soccer