Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders keeper Keenan backed to avoid another Windsor horror

By Chris Holt

October 18 2010 is a date that Chris Keenan will never forget.

He arrived at Windsor Park on that early autumn night almost 12 months ago with hope and expectation that Crusaders would mount a serious challenge to Linfield, both during that particular 90 minutes and throughout the season in general.

When he left Keenan was a broken man. Beaten eight times by a rampant and ruthless Blues team who all came together on the same night to produce the team’s best performance of that, or any other season. The Crues only managed one in reply.

While David Jeffrey’s men were hailed by all and sundry, Keenan was left to pick up the pieces after his night of horror and do his best to gather his shattered confidence back together.

That wasn’t easy, but he managed to do that to the extent where he helped Crusaders to second in the Carling Premiership and to the Irish Cup final, where his Windsor woes were repeated.

The 24-year-old was held culpable for the two goals that Linfield scored to turn the game around after Declan Caddell’s opening goal to claim the double.

A week later he was released by Crues boss Stephen Baxter, putting another dent in his confidence.

Tomorrow Keenan, now lining up between the posts for newly promoted Carrick Rangers, will head back to the international stadium — and he’s not exactly riding high on confidence this time either.

Last Saturday shell-shocked Carrick were 6-0 down to Glentoran within the opening 30 minutes and staring down the barrel of an absolute hammering.

Fortunately for Rangers the Glens eased off after that and they managed to score a consolation goal themselves as the game finished 6-1 for the Glens.

Manager Stephen Small doesn’t have a big enough squad to make wholesale changes as he attempts to restore pride in possibly the most daunting trip he’ll make this season.

Dropping Keenan wouldn’t even come into consideration — which should help lift the ‘keepers confidence at least a little bit.

“Chris is a good goalkeeper and he’s one of the few players in our squad that has Premiership experience,” said Small.

“We took Chris off at the Oval because he was carrying an injury. I wasn’t going to play him against Sport & Leisure (in the Irn-Bru League Cup) on Wednesday night and he wouldn’t have been fit enough anyway.

“If he’s fit on Saturday he will play. I won’t leave him out because he conceded six goals against Glentoran.

“It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t the defence’s fault that they were exposed and that Glentoran hit a purple patch on the day.

“I won’t leave him out because of his history at Windsor Park either. That doesn’t mean anything.”

There is one piece of history that Small would like to repeat though. Carrick’s most famous result — and one of the biggest shocks ever in Northern Ireland football — came when they faced Linfield. The Taylor’s Avenue outfit were an intermediate club back in 1976, but they humbled the big boys in the Irish Cup final and walked off with the trophy.

There will be no such prize tomorrow, but a silver lining is what Small is looking for.

“I’m a very positive person, the players will tell you that, but going to Linfield and winning is a big ask,” said Small.

“We will try to frustrate Linfield and hit them on the break. That’s when we’re at our best and if that wins us the game I’ll be delighted.”

Belfast Telegraph

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