Linfield will not be weak: Mannus
Alan Mannus has rubbished the claims Linfield aren't taking the Setanta Sports Cup seriously.
Some pundits have highlighted the fact that the All-Ireland competition is well down the Blues' trophy wish-list but the Northern Ireland international says the side that won the inaugural tournament in 2005 are in it to win it.
Manager David Jeffrey has freshened up his side for Setanta Cup showdowns with Derry City and Glentoran and he will continue to make changes to the starting 11 for the tough test away to St Patrick's Athletic (7.45pm).
However, two 3-1 victories - against the Candystripes and Glens - have underlined the strength in depth at Windsor Park which has enabled the Blues to reach within touching distance of another league championship.
Good starting 11s win football matches, good squads win league titles.
And in the All-Ireland competition Jeffrey has been able to substitute quality with quality.
Mannus says commentators are wrong to claim Linfield view the Setanta Cup glory as only "a hindrance."
The Blues' number one said: "People can say what they like about us but we have won our first two games in the competition and that says it all.
"There is less fixture congestion at this stage of the season than last year because the Setanta Cup has been split over two seasons but with the games coming thick and fast the manager has to make changes.
"And when he does make changes the players who come in are as good as the players who make way - otherwise he (David Jeffrey) wouldn't have them at Windsor Park.
"Our Setanta Cup teams have not been weakened sides - there is no such a thing at Linfield. The teams are strong enough to win matches and that has been proven in the cup.
"If the players weren't good enough they wouldn't be in the squad. What would be the point in having players you could not rely on? You need to have more than one player who can do a job in a certain position."
When Jeffrey selects his side tonight he may be tempted to give a third appearance to defender Billy Joe Burns.
The league leaders resume their Setanta Cup campaign in good heart even though they were made to sweat by the Glens on Saturday. Alan McDonald's men failed to put the ball in the back of the net and Mannus, not for the first time, pulled out all the stops to save his side's blushes.
"A goalkeeper always wants to keep a clean sheet so I was pleased with my performance," added Mannus. "I had to make a few saves but we know we did not play as well as we can. Everyone makes mistakes but the important thing is not to repeat those mistakes and hopefully we can play much better in the remaining fixtures, beginning in the Setanta Cup.
"All these games are difficult tests against full-time sides. It's a higher standard of football you are used to playing against. The players are sharper and fitter but we relish the challenge of taking on those sides."