Linfield boss David Healy: We must beat Crusaders to stay in title race
David Healy is adamant that his Linfield players have answered the critics who claimed that they couldn't win the big matches.
And the Windsor Park boss has admitted that the Blues need to win the biggest one of the season so far, tomorrow's top-of-the-table clash with Danske Bank Premiership leaders and defending champions Crusaders, otherwise their title ambitions will be over.
Not even a draw will suffice according to Healy - who has privately predicted that there won't be a share of the spoils at Seaview.
Five points behind the Crues with five games to play, Linfield can really shake up the title race if they take all three points and victory is a must for Healy.
"Lose on Saturday we've no chance," said Healy, whose team's form through March has won him the Belleek Manager of the Month award.
"If we don't win it's going to be a long way to claw Crusaders back.
"You only have to look at their record, they have only lost three games. It's not as if they lose many games.
"If we don't win I can't see us winning the league."
"It's a game that I don't fear and it's one that the players shouldn't fear."
In a black November Linfield suffered four consecutive defeats, including home losses to both Cliftonville and Crusaders.
Those results saw further criticism of a Blues team with a supposedly soft underbelly.
Since then, however, they have responded by beating the Crues on Boxing Day, followed by two recent victories over the Reds - both at Solitude - in the league and Irish Cup and have lost only one of their last 15 Premiership games.
Healy believes the doubters have been proved wrong, but is still looking for further proof.
"It was the players in the dressing room, they are the ones who had the questions thrown at them," said Healy.
"The lads who had been there a few years are the ones who it should have been hurting and who should have been disappointed because they are the ones.
"I don't mind being called slow, sluggish, small, fat, ugly or whatever else, but don't have people question your desire or your heart.
"I think a lot of people outside were questioning that about the boys at Linfield, but I think they have answered them.
"Beating Crusaders on New Year's Day, beating Cliftonville twice. They have answered a few of the questions and if they keep answering the questions I ask of them it will show how far we have come."
With that in mind Healy is relishing the challenge ahead of what is the biggest game of his managerial career.
"It's a game that I don't fear and it's one that the players shouldn't fear," he said.
Healy will be in the dugout on Saturday and will then serve a two-match touchline ban.
He was originally hit with a four-match suspension after comments made following a defeat to Portadown in February, but appealed that decision.
A statement from the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee read: "The four match suspension was upheld however, due to mitigating factors the committee decided to impose a two-match suspension commencing Monday, April 11. The further two matches were suspended for a period of six months."
The disciplinary committee declined a request to elaborate on what the 'mitigating factors' were.