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Taking on Glens still stokes up ex-Linfield ace Gault

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 17/09/2016

Old habits: Michael Gault is relishing a trip to The Oval after joining Crusaders in the summer
Old habits: Michael Gault is relishing a trip to The Oval after joining Crusaders in the summer

He no longer wears the blue of Linfield, but a clash with Glentoran still stirs the passion in Michael Gault.

For more than a decade, the veteran midfielder had some epic duels in the heat of a Big Two derby. This afternoon he steps out again at The Oval, this time with Crusaders.

And while it doesn't carry quite the same rivalry as a Glens-Linfield clash, Gault is expecting a huge battle.

"I have always enjoyed playing against them," the 33-year-old said. "I've never had an easy game against the Glens.

"Playing for Linfield, they were always competitive battles, they always made it difficult, and this will be no different."

Gault arrived at Crusaders in the summer after a season with Portadown, and has made an impressive start. So too the Crues, who are once again setting the pace in the Premiership.

They have 17 points from a possible 21, yet, by manager Stephen Baxter's own admission, have still to find top gear.

However, Gault has been in Irish League football far too long to know that the table counts for nothing at this stage.

"It is very early days and while it's better sitting at the top than playing catch-up, we can't read much into it," he said. "It's down to us to stay there as long as we can. There are good teams like Linfield and Glenavon and Cliftonville all up there as well.

"It's nice to be up there, but we know there is a long way to go."

For today's opponents, the start to the campaign has been anything but dull.

Stand-in boss Roy Coyle will be in charge once more as the hunt for Alan Kernaghan's successor moves into another week.

The Glens were shocked by Ards last weekend, and needed an 88th-minute goal to snatch a point against Glenavon in midweek. Gault insists they will cause Crusaders problems - but believes his side are good enough to cope.

"They have had a change of manager so it's hard to know what to expect," he said. "However, we are very confident in our own ability. We were very good against Dungannon and if we go out and play the same way, it should be no problem.

"That's no disrespect to Glentoran, but we have such good players that if we go out and play the way we can, we know we can win."

The Crues were runaway winners in each of the last two seasons. But they haven't rested on their laurels, and Gault's arrival was one of a number of new signings at Seaview over the summer.

Philip Lowry, David Cushley and Howard Beverland have also signed, further strengthening an already formidable squad.

Gault says there is now real competition for places.

"We have around 20 quality first-team players and any one of them is ready to step into the side," he said. "You have to play well to keep your place in the team. If you lose focus you know the manager can change it about.

"The competition for places is very strong, it is keeping everyone on their toes and it is showing in our form so far."

The Crues left it late last weekend to beat Dungannon, with Paul Heatley netting twice in the last 12 minutes. Gault admits more and more teams are setting out to frustrate them.

"It is the same as when I was at Linfield - every team would come to Windsor and set up not to get beaten," he added.

"That makes it harder for us, but we've got the players to go out, break teams down and win."

Belfast Telegraph

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