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Lowry is wary of wounded Crues

Linfield proud of unbeaten streak against rivals but Stephen knows Seaview men will use it as incentive

By Alex Mills

Linfield's Stephen Lowry admits there will be no hiding place when his team go head-to-head with Crusaders in tomorrow's Tennent's Irish Cup quarter-final clash at Seaview.

The Irish League's top two teams will do battle for the fifth time this season, with David Healy's boys making the short journey across town hoping to preserve their unbeaten run against the champions.

But Lowry is quick to point out that previous results will count for nothing and, if anything, they could be used as a big motivational factor for their opponents.

"They don't come much bigger than the league's top two teams colliding in a cup game. I'm sure they'll be looking for a bit of revenge, but it's something we have to deal with," said Lowry.

"They are a top side - the league table doesn't lie. We may have had the better of the results this season, but they are still well clear at the top.

"We'll focus on our strengths and do what we can to be in the semi-final draw."

Having joined the Blues from Coleraine in May 2014, Lowry pulled on the famous blue shirt for the 100th time in the County Antrim Shield final against the Crues at Ballymena last month.

And, just to add a little icing to the celebratory cake, he scored one of the goals - from the penalty spot - in the 3-1 win.

"A lot is riding on this game as far as we are concerned," said Lowry, who was given his marching orders in a Premiership battle at Seaview in August but the Blues dug deep to earn a point after a scoreless draw.

"We've turned them over a couple of times but I'm sure that will be in the back of their minds, so confidence will not be an issue with us. It's a fantastic game for the neutral."

The Blues go into the game in the best possible shape having enjoyed a Big Two win over arch rivals Glentoran last weekend, whereas the Crues lost a little bit of ground at the top as they were held to a draw by basement side Portadown.

"We got the job done last week," said Lowry.

"It probably wasn't our best performance of the season, and it wasn't pretty on the eye, but we got what we were after - three points.

"It came after a really poor showing against Portadown in the previous match.

"We were fortunate to scramble a 1-1 draw, scoring with practically the last kick of the game.

"But Portadown did the same thing to Crusaders last week. By all accounts they were unlucky not to win the game, so credit must go to the Ports.

"They may be at the bottom but they are still fighting for their lives.

"We managed to cut the gap on Crusaders to seven points after last week's win, but they are still in pole position with only eight games remaining, so it's still a big ask for us to catch them, but we'll still not be giving it up.

"It's a matter of keeping on the pressure because anything can happen when the top six face each other.

"We have given away so many cheap points, it's been very frustrating."

Linfield are now into their fifth season without picking up a major trophy and Lowry admits that heaps on a little bit of extra pressure.

"The expectation levels at the club are enormous," he added.

"Nothing has changed regarding the players because we go into every game expecting to win.

"But the fans expect trophies and, although the Shield win was a breakthrough, the league title or the Irish Cup has to be a priority."

Crusaders are also anticipating a titanic battle against their fierce opponents with centre-back Howard Beverland saying: "Their set-piece goals are the equivalent to a 30-goal striker.

"Each player will have an individual battle to win and you need to come out on top of yours.

"We've got to lift our performance level from the Portadown game (1-1 draw last Saturday night) or we won't win the league or Irish Cup. We were very fortunate to get a draw."

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