Crusaders have to forget Linfield: Donnelly
Martin Donnelly last night warned his Crusaders team-mates that both of their games over what he has branded a ‘massive’ weekend must be treated the same.
The Seaview winger wants to turn the Belfast Big Two into a threesome by joining Glentoran and Linfield in the battle for the Carling Premiership title.
And Donnelly feels strongly that the current Crusaders team are better side than they were last season, when their challenge for the Gibson Cup tailed off as winter turned to spring.
Time will tell on that score, but with a home game against Donegal Celtic this evening followed by Monday night’s trip to Linfield, title credentials are set to be tested.
“These are two massive games for us and if we can get six points then we’ll be right in the mix at the top of the table with Glentoran and Linfield,” said Donnelly.
“We can’t worry about Linfield at this stage because we’re going to have a tough game against Donegal Celtic to worry about on Friday night.
“We know that you have to work hard in every game in this league because every week you’re faced with a tough game.
“No matter who you are playing against, on their day any team in this league is capable of beating anyone else.
“Donegal Celtic will be as hard to beat as Linfield — possibly even harder — and no matter who you are playing you can’t afford to take anyone lightly or you could end up regretting it.”
Regret isn’t a word that has been in common use at Seaview of late. They haven’t lost since the end of August after suffering home defeats to Lisburn Distillery and Cliftonville.
And such has been their form that the Crues have picked up 17 of the last 21 points available.
“We are playing with confidence at the minute and it feels good to be in a good run of form,” said Donnelly.
“Last season we suffered up-front when David Rainey and Mark Dickson were out injured.
“Now we’ve got Michael Halliday in and he’s still one of the best strikers around. Jordan Owens is weighing in with a few goals as well and showing what he is capable of.
“I think we are much stronger and we’ll learn from the experience of last season.
“The good thing for me as a winger is that I know when I put a cross into the box, most of the time there is going to be one of our strikers on the end of it and they are all more than capable of scoring goals from them.”
Goals haven’t been hard to come by for the Crues, with 24 scored in 11 games making them the top scorers in the Carling Premiership.
At the back though they have conceded 15, which is more than anyone else in the top four and more than three times the number that Linfield have let in.
“I believe we are one of the best footballing teams in the league and we are a very attack-minded team as well,” said Donnelly.
“We’ve strikers who can score goals and although David Rainey hasn’t got going yet, we know he is a quality striker.
“Stuart Dallas has come in too and he’s hit six goals so far.”