Belfast Telegraph

Seaview boys looking good: Breslin

By Graham Luney

Tommy Breslin is refusing to rule Crusaders out of the title race – even if the Hatchetmen are cut down to size at Solitude.

Seaview supremo Stephen Baxter believes his men must win the north Belfast derby tomorrow to stand any chance of winning the championship.

A home win would leave the Crues 10 points behind the Reds and even though the Shore Road side have a game in hand on their neighbours it is a huge gap to wipe out with only 10 games remaining.

Crusaders will be looking for a slice of revenge after losing the League Cup final in a penalty shoot-out at the same venue but more importantly, a victory would narrow the gap between the two sides to four points – and four could become one if their game in hand – at home to Glentoran – is won.

So the Crues have a lot to lose at Solitude but Cliftonville have sneaked ahead of Linfield in the title race and it's a thrilling sprint to the finish.

Breslin doesn't believe Saturday's derby is do or die for their opponents.

"I think if we can win the game it will be a damaging result for Crusaders and it will leave them with more work to do but I don't think it will kill off their title hopes," said the Reds chief.

"I honestly believe there will be a few more twists and turns in this title race as we have seen that from the start of the season.

"Right from the beginning, different sides topped the table and went on good runs. The top teams face each other after the split and that's when you can hurt your rivals so it's all very tight.

"I don't think we can rule Crusaders out if we beat them.

"The games are getting harder for everyone now as injuries and suspensions kick in and the race is going right to the wire."

Breslin must change things at the back as both Ronan Scannell and Jaimie McGovern are suspended for the derby. But there is better news on Liam Boyce who has shaken off his ankle injury and is expected to start the game.

The Northern Ireland international suffered a badly sprained ankle in the win at Ballymena United but there has been no significant ligament damage.

"Liam trained on Tuesday night and he's a quick healer," added Breslin.

"There was a bit of ligament damage but the physio has put him through rigorous sessions and he should be ok to play.

"Losing Jaimie and Ronan is a blow but I've always said if we are going to win the league it's going to be a squad achievement and all the players must play their part. It's not just about the starting 11 – it's about the 18, 19 or 20 that make up the squad.

"But I'll have to have a think about things and do some rejigging at the back. It will be another fiercely contested derby."

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