SECOND-place Cliftonville host Linfield, who sit in third, at Solitude this evening (7.45pm, live on BBC iPlayer) in what could be a pivotal game in the title race.

The Reds lead their cross-town rivals by one point and trail leaders, Larne by three with just nine games to go, so there is no masking the importance of this fixture.

It’s the third time the sides have met this season with Linfield edging both previous encounters, but Jim Magilton’s side leapfrogged the Windsor Park outfit with victory over Glenavon at the weekend, less than 24 hours after David Healy’s side suffered a 3-0 defeat to Coleraine. 

The Reds’ manager has enjoyed the previous battles this season and believes this evening’s game will be huge in the race for the Gibson Cup. 

“It’s a big game, you only get that when you’re in it,” he accepts. 

“It’s great turning up as a spectator, even better as a manager because you know what it brings, and you know what the atmosphere is going to be like. That was my first taste of it here. I loved every minute of it. We were on the wrong end of the result that night and on another night, we win the game. 

“The Linfield that David Healy has built is around winning and around success. It’s obviously the next game of us and it is a huge game.”

Magilton is wary of the wounded Blues and praised the winning mentality that Healy and his players have created over recent years. 

“We have to reverse that [trend of Linfield bouncing back],” he insisted. 

“There is the opportunity for us to do that. When you watched the game on Friday night, you are always cautious and conscious that a 3-0 away defeat for Linfield is going to bite. 

“It is going to bite the players because they are a really fantastic group and a manager that is used to winning. They are going to come here and put up a show and we’ve just got to recognise their strengths, come out with our own and see how we go.”

The Reds are yet to register a win over any of the top four this season. 

Magilton is adamant that they need to deal with those facts and is adamant that there is no better time to end that statistic. 

“That is the facts, and you have to deal in the facts,” Magilton acknowledged. 

“The facts are that we haven’t. There would be no better time on Tuesday to right those wrongs. 

“I think we have been competitive in all those games and had we taken all our chances it would have been interesting, but Linfield on Tuesday night under the lights is a game that should motivate rather than intimidate. I’m looking forward to it.”