Paddy McLaughlin says Cliftonville face arguably the sternest test in Irish League football this weekend, but insists the Red Army’s absence won’t diminish his players’ determination to do them proud when they take on Linfield at Windsor Park.
The Reds make the journey to south Belfast for the behind-closed-doors Danske Bank Premiership clash on the back of a commanding 5-0 defeat of Portadown last time out and McLaughlin knows similarly high standards will be required from the first second of tomorrow evening’s encounter.
“I say it every week but every match in this division is tough,” he reiterated.
“If you look at results every Saturday, teams down the bottom often get good results against teams at the top and that’s a reflection of how competitive the Premiership is.
“We never go into a match expecting anything other than a really tough game, it’s what we prepare for every week, and they don’t come any tougher than away to the League Champions.
“Linfield are a top side with quality players and we’ll need to show the same attitude we did against Portadown. A lot was made of our attacking play in that game, but don’t forget we were very good defensively too and we’ll need more of the same at both ends of the pitch. We have to combine defending well with attacking with pace and power.”
On the absence of fans, McLaughlin adds: “Every team is missing their supporters, but I think it’s a bigger thing for us because everybody knows Cliftonville fans are pure fanatics. They make such a difference to us, especially at Solitude.
“The one disappointment about the win against Portadown was that our supporters weren’t there to see it but I hope they enjoyed it wherever they watched it from. Hopefully we put smiles on their faces after a difficult few weeks and we’ll be out to do the same at Windsor.
“I don’t think we’re the same team without our fans but it’s something everybody has to get used to and just go out and do the best that you can to make them proud of what they’re seeing.”
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Live stream: Available on the BBC Sport NI website and BBC iPlayer