CLIFTONVILLE boss Paddy McLaughlin is anticipating a physical battle on Saturday when top faces bottom in the Premiership.

The Reds are on the road to take on Warrenpoint Town at Milltown (3pm kick-off) looking to maintain their five-point advantage over Larne in second place.

Both sides go into the game off the back of League Cup victories in midweek, but with Cliftonville needing extra-time to see off Portadown, McLaughlin insists recovery will be the main focus for his side ahead of Saturday’s encounter.

“It will be another tough game; we know what the league is like,” said McLaughlin.

“They’re all physical battles and they’re all tough and all good sides that bring their own challenges. Every week is a different game and a different battle and challenge, so we’ll dust ourselves down and I’m sure Portadown didn’t need the extra half hour as much as we certainly didn’t need it with our squad being stretched.

“It’s a lot of work in the legs for the boys but we’ll recover between now and Saturday. That will be the key thing now for us, there won’t be a lot of training done between now and Saturday - it’s all about recovery and getting ready for another tough game.

“The boys have doing it all year long and they’ve been brilliant for us, and we go again on Saturday.”

The Reds’ boss felt that it took his side going a goal down on Tuesday evening to click into gear but praised Portadown for their organisation throughout the tie. 

“It probably did take us going a goal behind to get us going,” he felt.

“We usually react well from going a goal down. It’s not something we plan on and something we want to happen, but it seems our reaction is really strong and positive. It happened tonight again and it kick-started us into moving the ball a lot quicker and we created a lot more chances.

“Portadown were really well organised, they were hard to break down and they worked their socks off throughout the match. They made it difficult for us and we were delighted to get out of here with the win.”

Tuesday’s win sets up two semi-finals for the Solitude side in December and McLaughlin is delighted that it gives the players and fans something to look forward to.

“You want to stay in these competitions for as long as possible and hopefully try to go on and win them - that’s what they’re all about,” he insists.

“All clubs are the same, the players want medals, and the fans want silverware. We’ve two cup semi-finals coming up and we’re delighted that it gives us something to look forward to. It’s back to the bread-and-butter stuff on Saturday, the league is the main one and we have to try and get the points on the board and that’s what we’ll try and do.”

Chris Gallagher became the latest absentee after coming off injured against Dungannon Swifts at the weekend, but McLaughlin is hoping to have some of his injured players back in contention soon.

“We were down bodies and without Harney as well as the long-term casualties, which hopefully they will get back soon enough,” McLaughlin outlined.

“We were down five or six players that probably would have started the game if they had have been available. Fair play to the squad, we’ve been stretched a bit over the last couple of games, but we’ve come through the test with flying colours, so all the credit goes to the boys for their hard work and dedication.”

One option that could be available for McLaughlin the coming weeks is right-back Conor McDermott.

Conor McDermott could be in contention to return

Conor McDermott could be in contention to return

The Derry native hasn’t featured in almost a year and was training with the squad before Tuesday evening’s game with McLaughlin delighted with his return to the fold.

“He was back training last night and travelled here tonight just to get back on the pitch and let the fans know he’s back in contention,” he confirmed.

“It’s great to see. He’s had his injury problems and had his personal problems and had the boys behind him right throughout his journey over the last couple of months. It’s great to see one of the top young talents back on the pitch with his boots on and we’re delighted to have him back.

“It’s just a matter of getting his match fitness up again. When we get that we’ve got one of the best talents in the division, so it’s great to see him back.

“He is one of the top talents in his position north and south, the about it is – the players that have played in his position since he’s been missing have been phenomenal for us. Kris Lowe, Seanna (Foster), Chris Curran – they’ve rotated that position and never once let us down, so he’s got a fight to get back in the team.”