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Linfield are primed to take full advantage of any late slip-up, warns Lowry

By Graham Luney

Stephen Lowry says Crusaders deserve credit for holding onto top spot in the Danske Bank Premiership but he has also warned them that Linfield will take the title fight right to the wire.

The Crues can win three championships on the spin if they triumph at Ballymena United today and the Blues lose at Coleraine but former Bannsiders midfielder Lowry is confident that won't happen.

David Healy's side face a huge test at the Showgrounds, where Coleraine have not lost in the Premiership since Stephen Garrett's goal gave Cliftonville a 1-0 victory on December 2.

Both sides will meet in the Tennent's Irish Cup final on May 6 but Linfield mustn't take their eye off the ball as they still have a chance of grasping the Gibson Cup.

Only a point behind the Crues with two games remaining, the Blues know they have to keep winning and hope the north Belfast side stumble just before the finishing line.

"You have to give Crusaders credit because in the last two matches they have fought back to beat two very good teams," said Lowry.

"They've been hard games for them and credit where it's due but while they have done well we will keep looking after ourselves.

"We have kept the title race alive and it's been a great effort by us to do that.

"The Coleraine game is another massive test but all we can do is win our games and hope for a Crusaders slip-up.

"We still believe it can happen but we also know we face a formidable challenge against Coleraine, who have lost only once since Boxing Day.

"They are a strong side but we are playing well too and believe we can beat them.

"The boys are confident and feeling good.

"There's an Irish Cup final coming up but the games are so big that we haven't thought about it.

"It's nice to be involved in an exciting title race and then the Cup final. Earlier this season there was a feeling that things were slipping away from us and it was going to take something special to catch Crusaders.

"Deep down we probably felt any title challenge was unlikely but we fought back and worked very hard to reel in the Crues.

"We've given ourselves a chance of winning the league with two games to go and now every game is massive."

Lowry has huge respect for Bannsiders chief Oran Kearney and fond memories of his time with the club but that affection will be parked during a tense afternoon of Premiership action.

"Oran is a great manager and I'm really delighted to see them do so well since Christmas," added the 30-year-old.

"A few fickle fans wanted him out but it's been an amazing turnaround and we will expect a very difficult game. When we faced Ballymena they had a few boys missing but I think they are stronger now and they can be a physical team. We are hoping David Jeffrey can do his old club a favour!

"This game against Coleraine is a test of our mettle and in fact our last two league matches are against the sides that have given us the most problems this season. They have taken points off us and we can't afford to let that happen again. But the boys are playing well and really excited about the next three games."

Coleraine's unbeaten run of 17 games ended this week but a point against the Blues would ensure third place and a Europa League spot.

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