Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders won't ease off gas in quest for glory: Burns

By Graham Luney

Billy Joe Burns says it's full steam ahead in Crusaders' quest to secure a league and Irish Cup double.

Burns managed to celebrate three doubles while at Linfield but he hasn't had that feeling again since joining the Crues in May 2014.

In fact, Crusaders have never achieved the league and Cup double but the back-to-back Danske Bank Premiership champions are hungry to make more history.

There have been semi-final defeats since the 2009 Irish Cup victory - underlining how difficult an assignment a double is - but the Crues are firmly in the driving seat in the title race again and will host PSNI in the sixth round of the premier knockout tournament in domestic football.

League commitments are dominating thoughts again ahead of tomorrow's trip to Glentoran with Gary Haveron's side keen to shake off their Cup blues following a loss to Linfield.

Stephen Baxter's men boast a commanding seven-point lead in the race for the Gibson Cup but there will be no drop in the intensity levels as the finishing line comes into view.

Right-back Burns hopes the Shore Road side will remain on full throttle as they close in on championship and Irish Cup success.

"Seven points in our league is nothing," he warned. "As everyone saw in our Irish Cup game against Ards, they came here and gave us a real game. One defeat in the league and everything is very close again. We are taking nothing for granted.

"At the start of the season your aim is to win everything so we will always try to win any tournament we enter. Winning both the league and the Irish Cup is a tough task but it's a challenge we will relish and it's certainly something we want to try and do. You always try to improve every season and our aim is to win both."

Baxter knows there is plenty of work to do in the championship race and he is still wary of a ferocious challenge from rivals.

"We said at the start of the season we wanted to play our football in the top four and we have been able to maintain that," said the Crues boss. "We will keep playing the game in front of us and chalk them off.

"The lead has been fluctuating for the last six weeks so we all know it can change again. Linfield and Cliftonville will still feel they are in the title race.

"We've had to make changes to the team because of injuries and the Glentoran clash will be a very big challenge for us."

The Crues weathered a second-half storm whipped up by Ards in the Irish Cup last weekend but the 2-0 win was enough to see them progress to a meeting with PSNI.

"In the Irish Cup the most important thing is always getting through," added Burns. "We did that so I'm happy enough.

"Since I have been here we have lost in two semi-finals. Despite being the best team in the country we failed to make it to the final of the Irish Cup.

"It's a knockout competition and you will end up facing very good sides but when you're out you're out so you must perform.

"The Irish Cup is a brilliant trophy to win, I've been fortunate to win it three times. For fans and the players the night after the game is always special too. It's always something I enjoyed and looked forward to. I'd love to see the boys at Crusaders win the Irish Cup.

"We are a bit disappointed with our second half performance against Ards but I think we were always in control. We would have taken 2-0 before the game so we've got to be happy. Now we want to extend our lead in the Premiership if we can."

Fixtures to come

Tonight (8.00pm): Carrick Rangers v Ballinamallard United. 

Saturday (3.00pm): Ballymena United v Dungannon Swifts;  Cliftonville  v Ards;    Coleraine v Portadown; Glenavon v Linfield; Glentoran v Crusaders.

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