Belfast Telegraph

We can't afford any distractions if we're to hold off the Blues: Heatley

 

By Alex Mills

Crusaders goal hero Paul Heatley insists his team will not be looking over their shoulder now that the Danske Bank Premiership title race is down to the final two games.

The Shore Road boys sent out a chilling message of intent with an impressive 3-2 win over Coleraine at Seaview on Tuesday - the Bannsiders' first defeat in 18 outings.

Heatley conjured up a delicious double after producing a little piece of magic to create a tap in for Jordan Owens.

But Oran Kearney's team are made of stern stuff these days. They played their part in a great spectacle for the local game when strikes from James McLaughlin and Jamie McGonigle ensured the home fans had few finger nails at the finish.

The result means that the Crues maintain their one-point lead over Linfield and, now with only two matches remaining, it's down to a battle of nerves.

"We've led the table for most of the way - it's (the title) always been in our hands," said Heatley. "It still remains in our hands, so that's a big positive for us.

"We don't need to worry about other results or how other teams are doing. As long as we win our games, nothing can change. That's what we do, take one game at a time and hopefully that will get us over the line.

"We didn't know what was going on at Windsor Park in midweek in terms of their result, but we didn't really care. I think that would be more of a hindrance if we start to worry about other results.

"It's natural to feel a bit of pressure in situations like this. Every game is massive, every three points are massive - it doesn't matter whether it's against Linfield, Carrick Rangers or Glentoran.

"We try to go out and express ourselves in every game. We've been at the top for a long time. We've experienced the ups and downs but thankfully over the last few games we have played good football and showed our class."

The Crues are now within touching distance of writing themselves into the history books, joining Belfast Celtic and Linfield as the only teams to have racked up three consecutive title triumphs.

"I think it would be a great feat for any club," continued Heatley. "But we still have some unfinished business before we can start thinking along those lines.

"The way we performed against Coleraine made a big statement, but we can't take anything for granted.

"Coleraine made it very difficult for us, there is no question about that. But we have a lot of quality in our squad.

"We play on the edge. Sometimes we concede goals, but we always have that quality to put away our chances - and that's what happened against Coleraine, the quality came to the top again.

"Yes, we were under a little bit of pressure over the last few minutes, however I don't think that we were seriously threatened.

"When we established a two-goal cushion, we conceded a poor goal. I thought we were always in control to see out the game.

"It was a massive three points for us, and now we have to move on."

Heatley, who has bagged 22 goals this campaign so far, has now set his sights on another three points when the Crues make the journey to the Ballymena Showgrounds at the weekend.

"Our focus now turns to Saturday," he added. "We'll prepare well, as we always do. We are now down to two games. All we can do is take it one game at a time.

"We can't become distracted by anything else. We just need to keep picking up points, which is what we have been doing all season."

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