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Declan Caddell's plotting a Crues to the title

By Graham Luney

Published 30/01/2016

Red alert: Crusaders ace Declan Caddell (right) wrestles with Philip Lowry during the 1-0 victory over Portadown last week
Red alert: Crusaders ace Declan Caddell (right) wrestles with Philip Lowry during the 1-0 victory over Portadown last week

Declan Caddell hopes Crusaders' rivals are beginning to lose faith as the business end of the season looms large.

The champions looked like dropping two points at Portadown last weekend until a dramatic late winner saw Stephen Baxter's troops return to Belfast with a bounce in their step.

Josh Robinson's header was knocked into the net by Gary Twigg and the celebrations underlined the significance of the triumph.

The chasing pack, including Cliftonville and Linfield, need the Crues to slip up to keep their own title dreams alive.

Baxter's men are eight points ahead of nearest challengers Cliftonville, who have played a game more than their neighbours, while the Blues are nine points adrift of the leaders.

The Crues travel to Coleraine today on a high after the sting in the tail at Shamrock Park and Caddell hopes their rivals are feeling disheartened.

"The chasing pack are under pressure to win every week and we know what that feels like as we were in the same position when we were chasing Cliftonville a few season back," said the midfielder.

"We were winning matches but not eating into their lead and that can be disheartening.

"I'm sure Linfield and Cliftonville were upset we didn't drop points against Portadown, but while they are still on our tail we have to keep working hard.

"Any team in this league is capable of beating us so every win is vital and when it comes in such a dramatic fashion it gives you a boost and more belief.

"We learned a lot from our title win last season and that mental strength is key for getting the job done."

It's an ominous sign for the rest of the league if the Crues can win matches without firing on all cylinders.

Caddell added: "It was a massive three points for us and hopefully we will be looking back at the end of the season and realising how important it was.

"I felt in the first half we were the better side and Jordan Owens missed a chance, but it was more even after the break.

"We pushed for the winner and that's what we are about.

"There's a feeling that we will always get a chance to win the game, even late on. You've got to fight to the finish and keep believing. It doesn't matter how the three points come as long as you get them.

"I had my head in my hands as I thought Josh was missing with the header, but thankfully Gary (Twigg) managed to stick his belly on it and put the ball in the back of the net."

The champions may have got out of jail against the Ports, but Caddell knows his side must keep their sleeves rolled up.

"We have an eight-point lead over Cliftonville, but the fact is that it can be wiped out very quickly," added the 27-year-old.

"For us it's all about keeping the momentum going and getting results. If we look after ourselves and do what we need to do then we can hopefully win the title again.

"With the quality we have in our side we know that if we perform we can beat teams. Stephen (Baxter) has plenty of options and he can change the system if he wants to take a different approach and use different players such as Richard Clarke if he wants to play a passing game.

"Coleraine is always a tough place to get a result as you can also be battling the pitch and the weather. Sometimes it's not a day for pretty football, it's a battle and you have to dig in and grind out a victory. We have that will to win and hunger to do that."

Baxter has already moved to strengthen his panel for next season by signing David Cushley and Michael Gault on pre-contract deals.

"David Cushley and Michael Gault are two great additions," added Caddell.

"David Cushley is a match winner, capable of changing a game in a second and any club would love to have him. I've had my spats with Michael on the pitch, but off it we get on well and he's a winner. With Stephen O'Flynn moving on it's great that others are coming in."

Linfield have added teenager Gary Lavery to their squad.

The 18-year-old, who has signed until the end of the season, joins from Fleetwood Town after spells with Glenavon and Cardiff City. The Blues have also brought forward their home clash with Ballinamallard United from Saturday, March 26 to the Thursday March 24 (7.45pm).

Portadown have bolstered their attack by signing striker Mikey Withers from Lisburn Distillery on an 18-month deal.

Belfast Telegraph

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