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Bally tough test

Paddy McLaughlin says Ballymena United’s last three results carry their own warnings about what Cliftonville can expect to come up against in tomorrow’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter at The Showgrounds.

Though the Sky Blues suffered a heavy defeat to Larne in their midweek County Antrim Shield clash, McLaughlin is well aware of the wins they recorded on the road against Crusaders and Portadown prior to that – and believes a combination of the confidence they will take from those displays combined with a determination to bounce back makes for a dangerous opponent this weekend.

“It’s been a bit of a stop-start season for them so far but they’ve still got good players and one of the best Managers the Irish League has ever seen in David Jeffrey,” he said.

“They’ll want to get three points as much as we do.

“We’re going into it in good form and they had a good week last week with two good results away to Crusaders and Portadown so, while they’ll be disappointed with Tuesday night, like ourselves they’ll be raring to go for this one.”

The Reds negotiated a tricky tie of their own last time out, hitting back from 2-0 down against a Bangor side that looked on course to inflict Cliftonville’s first defeat of the season en route to claiming a Shield semi-final spot.

McLaughlin rang the changes for that game and believes the benefit of doing so will become apparent as the fixture list hots up.

“On Tuesday, 10 players got rested and 10 players got minutes under their belts so it’s important going into the next couple of weeks, when there will be a lot of midweek games, that we have good fitness and sharpness levels and that’s a big plus from Tuesday night,” he added.

“Bangor were superb – you’ve got to give them all the credit in the world. You can’t not mention how good Bangor were, they were better than us for parts of the game, but overall we took plenty away from it even though we did it the hard way.”

Ballymena United v Cliftonville
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