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Split mentality

Paddy McLaughlin says Cliftonville are already in the mindset traditionally adopted during the Danske Bank Premiership’s post-split run-in because their immediate fixture list is similiar to that which they’ll face in the final weeks of the season.

Though the split won’t take effect until the end of March, the Reds have trips to Linfield, Larne and Crusaders to negotiate, as well as a home tie with Glentoran alongside a sprinkling of battles with bottom-six sides before that – and McLaughlin

“I think everybody looks at Linfield as their biggest challenge, especially away from home,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s clash with the Blues at Windsor Park.

“It’ll be really difficult but we’re on a good run of form. The boys have been excellent individually and collectively, so we’re going into the game full on confidence and knowing that a win would put a bit of distance between us and Linfield – which would be nice to have because, even though it’s only February, you know they’re going to come on strong the longer the season goes on.

“This is the next big game in a long lines of big games that will dictate the rest of our season. Going to Windsor Park and playing against the Champions is a big ask but we’ll be ready for it.

“We’ve almost got a split before the split because we play the full-time teams in our next four games, with Portadown in there as well. We’ve matches against four of the top six to come and then we play them all again, so it’s a massive end to the season for us – big asks, big tasks, but big games require big names to step forward and we’ll need that every week.”