Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders have what it takes to go off on a winning run, says Caddell

Derby fever: Declan Caddell taking on Cliftonville in the festive fixture last year
Derby fever: Declan Caddell taking on Cliftonville in the festive fixture last year

By Alex Mills

Midfielder Declan Caddell believes Crusaders have yet to peak - and that's bad news for the rest of the Danske Bank Premiership title candidates.

The Shore Road boys are tucked in menacingly, only two points behind table-topping Linfield going into today's north Belfast derby dust-up with Cliftonville at Seaview.

Stephen Baxter's team approach the big Boxing Day showdown still slightly miffed from their weekend result at Windsor Park when a late equaliser from Joel Cooper deprived them of all three points.

It was Caddell who nodded them into an early lead - an advantage they held until three minutes from time.

Although they've lost only three times in the current campaign, Caddell reckons the best is yet to come from the Crues.

"We've still not played to full potential yet," said the 31-year-old.

"That shows how wide open the league is.

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"We have played well in patches and there have been a couple of poor performances in there.

"We haven't really reached the consistency we're after, but we are still up there (at the top). With the players we have I'm confident it will turn for us.

"Every game is a challenge but matches between the top six are massive.

"The teams that usually do well over the Christmas period then have the momentum to take them into the New Year.

"We have to make sure we're ready to go on Boxing Day.

"I don't reckon we can afford too more many draws this season.

"We've dropped too many points from drawn results, so we must start pushing for wins."

With the Reds sitting in second place in the table - one point ahead of the Crues - Caddell reckons their rivals are benefitting from the managerial switch that resulted in Paddy McLaughlin taking over at Solitude last February.

"Paddy has his philosophy on football, and I think it's probably what Cliftonville as a club needed," he added.

"They have the players there to get the ball down and play.

"They have the players to play attractive, attacking football and Paddy has also maybe brought his own experience to the backline because they are not leaking as many goals as they have been doing in recent years.

"They are playing well. We know they have good players and a good management team, so we know it will be a tough, tough game."

Caddell insists consistency will be the buzz word among all the top teams ahead of the big festive pile-up of fixtures.

He adds: "No team has really taken off of a six- or seven-game winning run.

"No-one has really taken advantage so far.

"It's good for the league that there are so many teams in the mix at this stage.

"We'll he hoping to kick on over the Christmas and New Year period.

"Over the last five or six years there have maybe been two or three teams that have pulled away and the rest were left behind.

"It's wide open this season. I don't think there is a lot between the top six clubs.

"We can only look after ourselves and, with the players and talent we have, we'll get it right, hopefully sooner rather than later.

"Linfield and ourselves have probably been the top two teams in the country for the past four or five years, so the head-to-head fixtures are always very important.

"We felt that our performance deserved three points at Windsor Park at the weekend, so that's what made the result that much more disappointing to take for us.

"We were gutted we didn't leave with all three.

"After dominating the first half, we let Linfield back into it and, in fairness, they were a different team after the break," said Caddell.

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