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Heatley in mood to kill off Reds' title bid

By Graham Luney

Published 20/02/2016

Pointing the way: Paul Heatley is confident Crusaders can end Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle's title hopes at Seaview
Pointing the way: Paul Heatley is confident Crusaders can end Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle's title hopes at Seaview
Cliftonville manager Gerard Lyttle

Paul Heatley says Crusaders will be out to kill off Cliftonville's title dream today.

The Reds will arrive at Seaview with a do or die mentality, knowing defeat would see their championship hopes suffer a serious setback.

Winger Heatley admits there is "massive pressure" on Gerard Lyttle's side and he believes a home win would finally crush their neighbours' hopes of finishing top of the pile.

"If we win this game that will be Cliftonville's title challenge over," said the former Carrick Rangers ace.

"It would leave them with too much to do.

"We would be 12 points ahead of them with a much better goal difference and we have only lost two matches all season so I cannot see us collapsing in a big way.

"We only have about 12 matches left and it would be too much ground to make up. I've no doubt that the Reds know that and they will throw the kitchen sink at us but it's a challenge we should relish and hopefully we can deal with that and eradicate one of our title rivals.

"That's a huge incentive for us and we will be fully prepared for their approach. To be honest, every game in the title run-in is massive and there is no danger of us showing complacency.

"There is too much experience and quality in our squad for that to happen.

"The fact that it's a must win game for them suits us as we won't feel any pressure and it's about doing the jobs we have to do."

If the Reds can win at Seaview it will move them to within six points of the leaders and keep them very much in the hunt.

There's a lot to gain and lose for both sides, making it a north Belfast derby dripping with even more tension than usual.

Both sides have proved to be very difficult to beat but the Crues are normally in ruthless form on their own pitch and Lyttle's side, who have just lifted the League Cup for the fourth year running, will need to hit top gear.

Michael Carvill and Chris Curran are suspended but both sides are still blessed with a huge array of attacking talent.

"I'm sure Cliftonville were given a morale boost by their League Cup win but that will not affect us in any way," added Heatley who was voted Player of the Year last season.

"The League Cup does not secure European football and we are still on track for our two big targets, the league title and Irish Cup.

"The strength of our squad is unreal and we also have immense character and a never say die mentally, underlined by the number of late goals we have scored."

Crusaders also have the advantage of being down this road before and knowing what it takes to get across the line first in a title sprint.

"In the last few seasons we have learned a lot about title run-ins and what teams need to do," added Heatley.

"You draw on those experiences and we perfected it last season. We have been in the running for the league title and then faded away so we know where it can go right or wrong.

"We are in good mental and physical shape and hopefully we can keep the pressure on the chasing pack."

Cliftonville haven't managed to beat the Crues yet this season.

That trend will have to change today if they want to have a realistic chance of winning the title again.

Belfast Telegraph

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