Michael McCrudden’s Irish League return could prove a welcome post-Christmas delivery for Cliftonville.
McCrudden made the switch from Derry City in the New Year window to reunite at Solitude with his former Institute boss, Paddy McLaughlin.
McLaughlin’s off-the-field management and McCrudden’s on-the-field form proved a winning combination to help fire Institute to Bluefin Sport Championship glory in 2018.
Substitute McCrudden replaced Joe Gormley in Monday night’s defeat to Linfield and could be in line to replace the Danske Bank Premiership’s leading goalscorer in the starting line-up this weekend.
Hamstring trouble may rule out Gormley for today’s trip to tackle Carrick Rangers and McLaughlin is relishing the future contribution of McCrudden.
“Michael McCrudden came on and did well in his first game in a few months,” said McLaughlin. “He’s in his off-season now after coming up from the League of Ireland.
“Getting him on the pitch was great to see as he showed a few flashes of his ability.
“It was just disappointing he had to come on at the expense of Joe Gormley’s hamstring injury, which he has been carrying for some time now.
“Hopefully with a few sessions and minutes on the pitch then Michael will be up to speed in no time.
“There were quite a few carrying knocks and niggles from the intense festive period but, hopefully come Saturday, we should have a full house.
“Joe’s a bit of a concern and we need to take a bit of care over the long-term risk.
“Carrick have done really well, they’ve taken the league by storm and surprised quite a few with the performances and results.
“Niall Currie’s done a great job.”
Rangers boss Currie is also facing up to injury concerns.
“We have some major issues, with quite a few regulars still missing,” said Currie. “But it’s a great opportunity for others to stand up to the plate as far as I’m concerned.
“Our squad is really stretched after the Christmas period but we will still have a strong side out in my opinion.
“Cliftonville are fighting it out at the top of the league - we know where we are, my players have had a wonderful season so far.
“But that means so far.
“We have made it really difficult for all of the top teams coming here so need to make sure that happens again and I have full trust in this group.
“So we will drive on and try and replicate our league start over the second half of the season.”