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Crusaders need a miracle to catch Linfield now, confesses Lowry

Philip Lowry

Midefielder Philip Lowry admits Crusaders' title chances are now hanging by a thread.

The Shore Road team's winless trauma continued on Tuesday night when they were held to a scoreless draw by rivals Cliftonville in a lifeless north Belfast derby at Seaview.

Stephen Baxter's boys have reeled in merely one point from a possible nine in the Danske Bank Premiership campaign. They were also beaten by Coleraine in the League Cup final, while their interest in the Irish Cup went down the tubes when they controversially lost to Glentoran at the weekend.

It means there is every possibility of Crusaders missing out on a lucrative European football ticket this season. They currently trail table-topping Linfield by 10 points, with only eight games remaining.

"It's a long way back for us at this stage," admitted Lowry. "It will probably take a miracle for us to reel in the Blues.

"But we must keep believing. We've already seen the league leadership changing hands quite a few times. The top six teams will all take points off each other.

"If we can string a run of four or five games together, then who knows what can happen.

"To be honest, we were glad to see the end of February.

"We had a great January, not even conceding a goal. The gaffer (Stephen Baxter) and BJ (Billy Joe Burns) won the manager and players of the month - everything was going well.

"Two or three of our best players then all had a dip in form at the one time and we just lost our way a bit. Obviously there were a few contentious decisions which didn't help either.

"We've a big squad, with plenty of old heads and experienced heads, so it's up to us to rally the young ones and get a strong finish to the campaign and look ahead to next season."

The Crues entertain basement side Institute at Seaview tomorrow and Lowry admits nothing other than three points will be acceptable.

"They are now all must win games for us - we can have no more slip-ups," he added. "We face Institute, Glentoran and Carrick Rangers before we go into the split. We need nine points - bottom line.

"If we can put nine points on the board, we'll then see where we are at.

"Again, we'll take one game at a time. This league can be so unpredictable. No team has really put 10 or 15 wins on the spin. There is still hope for us, there is no doubt about that, but we need to get back to what we are good at.

"I know Institute are down at the bottom of the table, but they are fighting for their lives.

"It won't be easy. We must show more creativity and quality in the final third if we are to get anything from the game."

Lowry admitted even the midweek north Belfast derby, usually full of fire and passion, failed to ignite.

He went on: "It felt like a typical end of season affair. It certainly didn't have the spice or rivalry of a derby. There wasn't a bad tackle over the 90 minutes, which probably said it all.

"We are struggling with our confidence at the minute.

"That's probably reflected the way we are attacking and defending... we are hesitant in everything we do. We got the point and a clean sheet, so we'll move on to Saturday."

Belfast Telegraph