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Crusaders must beat Cliftonville to maintain push for European football, says Caddell

 

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Fired up: Declan Caddell battles Chris Curran

Fired up: Declan Caddell battles Chris Curran

�INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Fired up: Declan Caddell battles Chris Curran

Experienced midfielder Declan Caddell insists Crusaders will not be looking for any sympathy following their controversial Irish Cup exit over the weekend.

Stephen Baxter's boys lost out to a last-minute penalty kick - awarded by the fourth official - against Glentoran at The Oval.

Afterwards, red cards were issued to goalkeeper Gerard Doherty and manager Baxter, while Jordan Forsythe was also penalised following an incident with a ball boy.

The Crues will now call on all their powers of recovery for tonight's derby showdown against Cliftonville at Seaview, knowing defeat will almost certainly torpedo any aspirations of them regaining the Danske Bank Premiership title.

Both north Belfast clubs trail table-topping Linfield by a whopping 11 points, so there is little room for error with games rapidly running out.

The 32-year-old Caddell believes his team can use Saturday's disappointment as a motivational factor going into what is now a massive match-up.

"It's not the time to start feeling sorry for ourselves - it is what it is," he stated.

"Yes, there was a certain amount of frustration and disappointment hovering over the club after the result at The Oval. It's cup football, so there had to be a winner.

"Looking at the incident that led to the penalty, it certainly seems like it was a handball, but I think it was the way things panned out, the way that the decision was taken. The referee awarded a corner-kick and then changed his mind and gave the penalty.

"We literally had no time to recover as it happened so late in the game.

"It's over, there is nothing we can do about it now, and there is no use in crying about it. We must focus on this game against the Reds, which is always a feisty affair."

Alarmingly, Crusaders have lost their last four games in all competitions, which is something Caddell and his colleagues are keen to put right.

"Now is the time for everyone to stand up and be counted," he said. "Results have been disappointing, there is no question about that, but things can turn very quickly in this game.

"We have nine games left to save our season. We are a long way off Linfield at the minute, so it's vital that we pull in three points from this match to cut the deficit.

"After that, we have eight games - all cup finals. Once the split takes place for the last five games, anything can happen."

Caddell admits that the lure of European football is also vitally important to the club - both on and off the pitch.

"We have qualified for Europe for the last nine or 10 seasons and the financial rewards brought in from that has helped lay the foundation for what our club stands for today," he added.

"But we have no divine right - we must make it happen on the pitch by winning football matches.

"It would be fair to say we, the players, have let ourselves down, the management down and the supporters down so far.

"The only way to put that right is to get back on the horse again and start picking up three points from every game.

"It's vitally important that we bring European football back to Seaview and our only hope of doing that is through our position in the league table."

Goalkeeper Sean O'Neill will be back between the posts tonight in place of the banned Doherty and, with Forsythe also missing out, there is every chance that Caddell will be reinstated to his usual midfield berth.

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