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Crusaders must raise game, says Donnelly

Martin Donnelly’s assessment of Crusaders’ performance against Linfield last Tuesday night is brutally honest.

That was my worst performance in two years at Crusaders,” he said. “No-one could hold their head high after that showing and say they performed.”

As the Sky Sports cameras are assembled at Seaview for this evening’s eagerly awaited clash with Glenavon (7.45), Crusaders are suddenly having to refocus.

While their title dream has virtually gone up in smoke, Stephen Baxter’s side are perilously close to losing their cherished place in the top six. The County Antrim Shield and Irish Cup holders have five games left to make sure they are swimming with the big fish when the league splits into two.

Portadown, who defeated Glenavon 1-0 on Friday night, have the wind at their backs and are breathing down the Crues neck in the league table.

One point out of a possible 12 represents a bitterly disappointing period for the Hatchetmen who have been off colour and lacking a killer touch without the injured David Rainey or Mark Dickson.

While losing at Linfield is no disgrace, the home defeats to Coleraine and Dungannon Swifts still rankle.

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However, Northern Ireland international Donnelly maintains that there is no crisis in confidence at Seaview — only a desire to get back on track.

“Our spirits have taken a knock but we are disappointed with our performances as we all know we can play a lot better,” he said.

“One to 14 against Linfield we didn’t turn up. If we had won that game we could have stayed in the title hunt but now we are fighting to secure our top six place.

“The Glenavon game is a massive one for us and whether the Sky cameras are there or not, we have to win it as we owe the fans a good performance.

“The players are keeping their spirits up in training but we know we have to raise our game in a big way. Everyone is buzzing about the game being on television but the bottom line is we are desperate to get the three points.

“The players are still angry about the way the games have been going but we can turn things around. It will mean us playing a lot better than we have been doing. Glenavon are a good side but we can beat them.”

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