‘I didn’t expect it to go so well’ – Wilson

Venue: Inver Park Date: Friday, 3 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on iPlayer and the BBC Sport website; text updates, in-play clips and highlights on the BBC Sport website

Cliftonville striker Ben Wilson admits he didn’t expect the start of his Solitude career to go as well as it has as he looks to add to his tally of 13 league goals in Friday’s trip to Irish Premiership champions Larne.

The 21-year-old is the Premiership’s top scorer going into the Inver Park tussle, with the Reds in second and ahead of Larne on goal difference.

Wilson, who started his career at Coleraine, played up to Under-23 level during his five years at Brighton before Reds boss Jim Magilton brought him to Solitude in July.

“I was out of contract at Brighton and I needed senior football – I’d known Jim from the past through Club NI and he reached out to me and said he would be interested in taking me on,” Wilson told BBC Sport NI.

“I was really grateful of that opportunity and I just said ‘yes, definitely’. I didn’t expect it to go so well and I’m just trying to keep my head down.”

The former Northern Ireland U21 international has made a sensational impact at Cliftonville with his Premiership goal tally five better than Ben Kennedy (Crusaders) and Chris McKee (Linfield) on eight.

“It should be a good game and one we’re looking forward to for sure,” Wilson said of Friday’s match at Inver Park.

“I’ll keep working and hopefully the goals will keep coming along.”

Wilson has been key to Cliftonville’s good start to the campaign although they sit eight points behind leaders Linfield.

“We’re all working hard behind the scenes, we’re playing really well with some good results. I’ve got good people, my family are looking after me and supporting me so hopefully it will continue,” added Wilson, who has 15 goals in all competitions.

“The fans have taken to me, which is a big one. They’re there every week, we bring a massive support and it’s always a great help to us on the pitch. We just want to deliver for them.

“Linfield have had a great start but we’re up there. We’ll just take it game by game and see where it takes us, that’s all we can do. We focus on the next game all the time and we’ll keep doing that.”

Wilson netted as Cliftonville beat Coleraine last weekend and he scored in August’s 1-1 home draw with Larne, who came from behind to defeat Newry City last time out.

His excellent form has not prompted thoughts of a-big move elsewhere, with the Coshquin man happy at the north Belfast club.

“I’m not really thinking too far ahead – I’m just really enjoying my football at Cliftonville. I just want to be here in the present and keep doing what I’m doing.

“That’s the most important thing for me now. Coming into this season the most important thing for me was to play in the senior men’s game . I’m doing that and if I can keep doing that I’ll be happy enough. If I can keep getting on the pitch and we’re performing well together then I’ll see where it takes me.

“Larne had a good result last weekend, coming from behind and scoring a couple of late goals. It’s going to be a tough game, just as it was a tough game at Solitude in August.”

It’s also Magilton’s first season at Cliftonville and he is delighted with Wilson’s start at the club as he prepares for the meeting with Larne.

“He’s a goalscorer – I’ve known him for nearly 10 years and as a young boy he had that instinct for scoring goals. It’s a great habit and it can’t be taught,” said the former Northern Ireland midfielder.

“I’m extremely happy with our start to the season. It’s a great group of players and there’s still more to come.

“This is a massive game – another massive test for us. Larne are champions and an outstanding team. they have quality in forward areas, have great experience and it’s a very well balanced side. They probably started slower that they expected but they are going to be in the shake-up.”

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch has been impressed with the Reds and knows his side will have to be at their best to overcome the visitors on Friday night.

“It’s a massive game although they all are. What we’ll concentrate on is what we need to do going into the game – nothing else matters,” said Lynch.

“I think Cliftonville have been excellent. We played them earlier in the season and, if truth be told, we had a little bit of a makeshift team without making excuses.

“They were better than us on the night and we know we have to do better going into Friday’s match.”