CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin believes that Portadown will be lifted by their weekend draw with Linfield as the sides meet in the quarter-final of the Bet McLean League Cup.
The Reds make the trip to Shamrock Park on Tuesday evening (7.45pm kick-off) looking to register a second victory in a week over the Ports after a 4-0 victory in the league last midweek.
But McLaughlin is expecting Matthew Tipton’s side to be buoyed with their weekend draw against Linfield and believes a tough game lies ahead.
“They will be lifted I’m sure by the result against Linfield,” McLaughlin believes.
“Linfield are a tough, tough opponent and the league champions. Anybody who gets anything against Linfield, they’ve got to play well and got to work hard for it. I’m sure they’ll be looking to back that performance up against us on Tuesday night.
“It will be the same again, we don’t expect anything other than a tough game. Tippy has got them well organised and he has got them playing good football whenever they get a chance to play.
“If you stand off them, they’ll hurt you and if you don’t be on your game they’ll hurt you, so we expect a very tough game, which it always will be I think it is in every game in this league. This league is madness in how tough all opponents are.
“We go to it expecting a tough game but in the form we’re in at the minute, it’s one we feel as if we can go and win. I’m sure Tippy will be telling his players the same, we look forward to it and we’re going in, in good form. Like I say, it sets it up for a good game.”
McLaughlin has a few enforced changes to make ahead of Tuesday’s clash after Chris Gallagher departed early with an injury in Saturday’s win over Dungannon Swifts but won’t know any availability until his side met for training on Monday evening.
“We’ve seen a couple of boys coming off injured today and we have rotated in the midweek games because the schedule is so frantic and so intense,” he explained.
“We definitely will be forced into a couple of changes after a few boys coming off injured, but we’ll not know what we have to work with until after training on Monday. It definitely gives us the opportunity to change a few players round and keep fresh going into the league games.
“It won’t be any disrespect to the competition or anything like that. The league games are coming thick and fast and our next three league games after Saturday are against three of the toughest opponents in the division: Linfield, Larne and Coleraine.
“We want to go into those games fresh and we don’t want to be flogging players going into them games. There might be an opportunity to rotate one or two but those one or two will be forced upon us.”
The link-up between Jamie McDonagh and Joe Gormley flourished again during the victory over the Swifts with McDonagh adding two further assists to bring his tally to 15 for the season and then securing his first goal and Gormley made it 11 strikes for the season, much to the delight of McLaughlin.
“Joe definitely is happy to be playing with Jamie, I think anybody would love to play with Jamie McDonagh,” McLaughlin insisted.
“His delivery and quality from wide areas, I don’t think it’s rivalled in this division. There’s not too many at this stage of the season sitting on 15 assists and one goal. It’s a phenomenal record, I think anybody would enjoy playing with McDonagh the form he is in at the minute.
“Joe was never too far away from his best, but at the minute, he is probably the best form he has been in, in my time here.
“Hopefully that continues without the season because when you’ve got him, Ryan Curran and Paul O’Neill all pushing to play and scoring goals and McDonagh on one side and Ives, Donnelly and Chris Curran on the other, going forward we’re a real force.”