Belfast Telegraph

Derby pain is gone and now we must steady ship: Ward

By Alex Mills

Versatile Sean Ward admits it will be the case of who blinks first in the race for the Danske Bank Premiership!

With only seven games remaining, it's now a straight fight for the Gibson Cup between Ward's impressive table-topping Crusaders and a Coleraine side that have hovered in the top two for most of the league campaign.

Ward is chasing back-to-back title wins, having been a pivotal member of the Linfield squad that paraded the trophy for the first time in five years last April.

And, although Stephen Baxter's boys appeared to be on the home straight after building up a five-point lead over the Bannsiders, they were blown slightly off course last weekend when losing for the first time in 20 games against North Belfast rivals Cliftonville.

Suddenly, that gap is back to two points and it's game on again, with Oran Kearney's braves determined to take it right down to the wire.

Ward believes it a time for cool heads, and knows his team can't afford to start feeling sorry for themselves at this crucial stage.

"We are over last week's result - to be honest, we were over it before we left Solitude," said the midfielder, who is equally dependable in defence.

"Yes, we were disappointed with the display at Cliftonville. We were victims of our own downfall, with a mixture of poor decision-making and pure basic stupidity.

"The third goal killed us off, it was uphill after that. Cliftonville came at us right from the start and were pumped up for it.

"We let ourselves down, but we can't be too critical as we had been on a great run. We have to put it down to a bad day at the office and move on."

Ward insists it's vital Crusaders respond in a positive manner when Rodney McAree's Dungannon Swifts leave at calling card at Seaview today.

"There are no easy games in this league, they are all tough," he added. "At this stage of the season, every team has something to play for.

"Dungannon will be buoyed by winning their first senior trophy - they know they can compete with any side.

"The boys will be bursting a gut to get back on a winning track. It's now basically down to sudden death - every game is a cup final, so it's important we hold our nerve.

"Our immediate priority, though, is taking three points from the Dungannon game."

Belfast Telegraph

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