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Season’s greetings

Jim Magilton has saluted his players’ application throughout pre-season as the countdown to Cliftonville’s Sports Direct Premiership opener gathers pace.

Last night’s 2-0 win over Warrenpoint Town was the Reds’ seventh friendly outing in the build-up to the August 12 curtain-raiser with Glenavon and, though injury has robbed him of the services of some of his squad, the Manager has been encouraged by what he has seen so far.

“Everybody has worked very hard in every training session and every match we’ve had so far,” explained Magilton.

“The application and attitude of the players has been fantastic. They’ve responded to everything we’ve thrown at them. The season’s nearly upon us and we’re looking forward to it.

“Pre-season has gone very well but I’ve been involved in teams where we’ve won every friendly and struggled when the real thing has started and the opposite can be true as well. You can’t really read too much into it, we know there will be a massive step up in quality and demand when the League starts.”

The boss also gave an update on Ryan Curran and Stephen Mallon’s respective rehabilitation battles with the pair not having featured in any of the team’s friendly fixtures, while Ronan Hale suffered an injury in last week’s encounter with Finn Harps.

Though disappointed to lose Hale to a medial ligament complaint, Magilton acknowledged that the injury could have been much worse.

“It’s a massive blow to lose a player of Ronan’s quality – it’s bad news for him, for us and our fans,” he said.

“With ligament injuries, you can be looking at being out for a very long time and, while we’d obviously prefer Ronan wasn’t out at all, it’s a bit of a relief for him and for us that it’s not as bad as maybe it could have been. Without wanting to put an exact time frame on it, we know he’ll be a very important player for us when he’s back.

“It’s difficult to replace the kind of quality be brings but injuries happen in football and we just have to get on with it. We’ll support him and make sure we get him back in the right shape to play again.

“Ryan Curran hopefully isn’t too far away and, again, we just have to make sure we do everything we can to get him in the best place possible. When he’s ready, he’ll come back into the fold. He’s another fantastic player who has huge influence in the changing room. He’s been brilliant around the players throughout pre-season but we just want to make sure that he’s right before we get him back in the team.

“Stephen Mallon’s another who’s worked and done a lot of the hard graft. It’s just a matter of that final hurdle for him. Obviously we have to get him on the pitch and we have to get him at full pelt, but we still have to overcome one or two little hurdles because he’s a huge asset for us.

“In terms of our training and performances, pre-season has gone as well as we would hope. We’d like some new faces in just to give everybody a lift and give our fans a lift, too, but there’s still a month of the transfer window left and we’ll continue to keep looking to do business.”