Win or title bust for Crusaders as Halliday aims to inflict more pain on Linfield
Michael Halliday is targeting another famous goal against Linfield.
And the Crusaders striker’s ambition is two-fold as he believes nothing else than a win against the Blues tomorrow will keep the Seaview men in with a shout of mounting a realistic challenge for the Carling Premiership title.
Thirteen points behind the defending champions, the Crues — who pushed David Jeffrey’s side all the way in last season’s title race — are planning to make it an unlucky trip to the Shore Road for the Blues.
As a Glentoran player Halliday was often the scourge of Linfield. When his name was on the teamsheet Bluemen were worried.
From his extra-time winner in the 2001 Irish Cup final until a vital goal in a Big Two league game that played a big part in the Glens winning the title in 2009, Halliday has enjoyed a healthy strike rate against Linfield — with plenty of others in between.
Even since moving from east-Belfast to the north of the city 18 months ago he’s been troublesome to the Linfield defence — as well as plenty of others around the Irish league.
The Crues put a dent in Portadown’s title quest when their victory at Shamrock Park last Saturday helped Cliftonville to move into second place.
Following that up with another three-point haul against Linfield is now a must in terms of their title ambitions — even though we haven’t quite hit mid-December.
“We’re a fair way back from Linfield and we can’t focus on the top of the table at the minute,” said Halliday.
“We have to take things a step at a time and that starts with trying to get a win on Saturday against Linfield.
“We have to concern ourselves with what we’re doing. It is up to us to win our games and really we have to beat Linfield if we’re going to start to close the gap on them and have any chance of catching them.”
With goalkeeper Sean O’Neill and striker Timmy Adamson arriving at Seaview in the summer from Dungannon Swifts, as well as the acquisition of Paul Leeman after his release from Glentoran, the Crues were widely expected to be on Linfield’s tail right from the start of this season.
That hasn’t turned out to be the case and although they have a lot of catching up to do, Halliday isn’t giving up on a fourth league title of his career.
“We probably even thought ourselves that we’d be higher up the table at this stage, but we’ve dropped silly points and really we’ve underperformed and not played as well as we’d have liked,” he added.
“The good thing is that last season we were 13 points behind Linfield and managed to get close to them. This season we’ve got a bit more time, but we need to get back to playing like we were last season if we’re going to close the gap.”
They may not say it, but the Crues players will have a sense of revenge in their minds tomorrow as well.
Chris Morrow’s red card at Windsor Park earlier in the season was a pivotal moment in a 2-0 win for Linfield.
“The sending off at Windsor Park was unfortunate because up until them we were very much in the game,” insisted the lethal finisher Halliday.
“Going down to 10 men at Windsor Park is far from being an ideal scenario and once Linfield got themselves in front they did what they’re good at and saw the job through in the end.”