Belfast Telegraph

All the pressure is on Crues: Feeney

Survival fight: Ards boss Warren Feeney and his assistant, cousin Lee, hope to steer the north Down men to safety
Survival fight: Ards boss Warren Feeney and his assistant, cousin Lee, hope to steer the north Down men to safety

By Alex Mills

Manager Warren Feeney insists relegation-threatened Ards will approach today's crucial league clash with Crusaders at the Bangor Fuels Arena without fear.

Although the teams are separated by a whopping 45 points in the Danske Bank Premiership table, the former Northern Ireland striker will urge his boys to go out and enjoy their final game of the season against the current title holders.

Feeney's strugglers are grimly clinging to a one-point advantage over Newry City, who currently sit in the automatic relegation slot. And, with only six games remaining - this is their final outing before the split - it's now make-or-break.

"My message to the players is to go and enjoy it," said the ever-optimistic Feeney. "It's a free game for us in many ways - we are not expected to win this one.

"Crusaders have one of the best squads in the league. You only need to look at the quality players on their bench every week, boys who can't even get a starting shirt.

"When you have boys like (David) Cushley and Jordan Owens sitting on the bench, it shows how strong they are.

"But we have to be confident in our own ability. The pressure is off us, it's all on Crusaders.

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"We have got to make sure we are organised and stick to the game plan. If we do that, anything can happen.

"It's our final game against a top-six side. Once we go into the split, we'll be playing the teams in and around us in the league table.

"It's going to be difficult, make no mistake about that, but we are now in a position of aiming for a play-off place - I'm sure Newry are the same. It's now down to the nitty-gritty.

"Picking up points is essential if we want to survive in the league. We play Newry in a few weeks, but that game will look after itself. We've got to focus on ourselves. We need to give this a real push over the last six games."

Feeney tasted defeat for the first time last weekend, suffering a one-goal home loss to Warrenpoint Town, but he prefers to look ahead rather than back.

He added: "We were disappointing last week. I still think we could have got something out of the game.

"We huffed and puffed. We were hoping something would happen, instead of making it happen.

"But I said when I took this job that we'll win games and we'll lose games.

"It was a matter of picking up the boys again and focusing on Crusaders this Saturday.

"We have a couple of injuries and suspensions, so I may have to reshuffle the pack. It gives other people the chance to step in. It's going to be difficult against the reigning champions, but we'll give it a go."

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