Belfast Telegraph

We'll be axed for final if we lose focus, warns Lowry

By Graham Luney

Stephen Lowry says there is no chance of Linfield taking their eye off the ball this weekend with the County Antrim Shield final against Crusaders looming on Tuesday night.

The Blues and Crues cross swords in the Shield decider at the Ballymena Showgrounds but before then the Premiership's top two hope to book their place in the Irish Cup quarter-finals.

While Stephen Baxter's side entertain PSNI, David Healy's men must resist whatever Institute hurl at them at Drumahoe.

The Blues boss, who has already lost Aaron Burns through injury, may shuffle his pack a little with one eye on the Crues showdown but former Limavady United ace Lowry has warned Stute that Linfield won't let standards slip.

"I know we have the Shield final on Tuesday night but our manager will not accept any drop in standards," said Lowry.

"David (Healy) knows he can't praise the players too much as it's all about the next match and they're two massive games.

"You can't afford to look ahead and the players have to perform in every match.

"A lot of talented players like Josh Carson and Niall Quinn haven't featured regularly and we've got to deliver in every match we play, whether it's a cup final or not.

"We desperately want to go one better than last season. The final against Glenavon passed us by, we didn't turn up.

"We owe it to ourselves to get to the final and turn up. We had beaten Glenavon a number of times but on the day, in a big game, they were the better side.

"If we went out of the Irish Cup it would be bitterly disappointing as we want to win a competition and perform better than last year's final."

Lowry has got his mojo back at Windsor Park and he picks out the sensational fightback at Mourneview Park as the game that gave him a new lease of life.

"I'm enjoying my football a lot more and that comes when you are feeling fit and contributing to the team by way of assists and goals," he said.

"I think the Glenavon game changed things for me.

"I came on at half-time and the boys, despite being down to nine men and 2-0 down, battled hard to get a point.

"I've bagged a few goals and am feeling good but you've got to keep playing well or you will be out of the team again.

"It's going to be a tough game at Institute on a tight pitch.

"I can remember when Warren Feeney was in charge we beat them 1-0 there and it was a tight game.

"All the pressure will be on us and although they have suffered a few defeats, they will believe they can beat us.

"When a team has nothing to lose it can make them very dangerous. They also have former Linfield player Sammy Morrow in their ranks and he will have a point to prove after not playing as often as he would have liked at Windsor Park."

Lowry is also looking forward to Tuesday's County Antrim Shield decider.

"Everyone keeps reminding us that Linfield are not winning enough trophies and we are very aware of that and the expectation levels," he added.

"It's up to us as Linfield players to prove we can deliver on the big occasion and that is a big game.

"This club has a proud tradition of winning silverware and we need to return to that.

"With it being at the Ballymena Showgrounds rather than at Seaview, it gives it more spice.

"There should be a great atmosphere at a nice tight ground and hopefully we can do enough to win."

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