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Support act vital, says Paddy

Paddy McLaughlin says the absence of Cliftonville supporters will be keenly felt when his players step out for a third consecutive North Belfast Derby without the Red Army in attendance.

Only Crusaders fans were permitted at October’s Seaview encounter, while January’s meeting at Solitude – which had originally been scheduled for its traditional December 26 slating – was played behind closed doors and, ahead of tomorrow’s return to the Shore Road, McLaughlin admits he’d loved nothing more than for the venue to ring to the tune of a derby day atmosphere.

“It is just disappointing for the fans that they are not going to be there, because they make that fixture,” he said.

“You think back to the Boxing Day fixture (in 2019) when we packed out the two sides and to go and get a result was a brilliant feeling.

“It’s a pity they are not going to be there again, but hopefully they will cheer us on for the same result.”

He added: “I think the atmosphere in the games is missing massively, especially here at Solitude – they make some racket and they create a brilliant atmosphere and it’s intimidating for the away side.

“Without the fans it is never the same – and never will be the same – and the sooner we get them back in, the better.

“You definitely miss that adrenaline and that atmosphere that they create.”