Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders will bounce back, vow Beverland and O'Neill

county antrim shield

By graham luney

Crusaders have no option but to nurse wounded pride and retain their focus on landing bigger prizes this season.

The 3-1 County Antrim Shield final loss to Linfield on Tuesday night was a tough pill to swallow and Paul Heatley's dismissal still rankles.

But Seaview duo Howard Beverland and Sean O'Neill say the league champions will quickly shake off that disappointment and come out fighting.

Losing a major final is always tough to take but champions are able to pick themselves up and go again and the Crues have already done that this season.

Beverland, who is today crowned Player of the Month, said: "There was a great disappointment in losing to Linfield in the league as we could have gone 10 points clear and we are not used to losing at home.

"There was a swift movement on and the Tuesday night game at Ards was good as we were 2-0 down early on and fought back, it was a turning point as it showed the mentality of the team to pick ourselves up and perform at a level we expect us to. Now we must do that again.

"The first thing that took a bit of getting used to for me following my move is while fans expect you to win big games, you are joining a side that has enjoyed incredible success and being champions brings extra pressure to win. At Coleraine we were underdogs, at Crusaders there is an expectation to win games and trophies, from fans to media and management.

"But the players expect that too. Seaview has been a fortress and the pleasing thing is that we don't concede many goals and hopefully we can return to winning ways against Ballymena United on Saturday."

Goalkeeper O'Neill is also hurting after the Shield defeat but he's confident the character in the Crues' dressing room will shine through.

"Linfield deserved to win the game and maybe we just weren't at it, certainly for the first 10 minutes," admitted O'Neill. "It's going to be hard to come back from 2-0 down. I got a great text from a friend saying when champions lose they dust themselves down and go again and that's what we'll do.

"We've done it for three years and we'll keep doing it. I'm not saying we will beat Ballymena United on Saturday but you can be sure we will give everything we can for the club, it's as simple as that. There's good characters and leaders in our dressing room and we are led by the best manager in Stephen (Baxter)."

Crues boss Stephen Baxter added: "We will fight to the death in everything we do and if it's not good enough it's not good enough. Linfield deserved to win the final."

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