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Heatley is calling on champs to start shifting up gears


Setting sights higher: Paul Heatley

Setting sights higher: Paul Heatley

Setting sights higher: Paul Heatley

Paul Heatley wants Crusaders to start flexing their muscles in the Danske Bank Premiership title race.

The Crues have been left a little frustrated after back-to-back stalemates against Linfield and Coleraine, while supporters know their team are nowhere near operating in top gear.

Stephen Baxter's side can rediscover their swagger at home to Portadown today (3pm) and 'Heats' accepts there is room for improvement.

"We started like a house on fire against Ballymena United and it was a game we were determined to win after not knowing what that feels like on the opening day for six years," said the winger.

"Thankfully, we put that right but looking at it realistically we have had two tough matches against Linfield at home and Coleraine away but we have eight points and remain unbeaten so we will keep working hard but we recognise too that there is room for improvement.

"We could do better both defensively and in attack. Teams will raise their game against the champions but that will be a motivational tool for us as we want to go on and win the league three, four, five years in a row. At this stage of the season the league table can have a surprising look and Ards were the early leaders so you can't evaluate things too much."

Portadown are hoping to win their appeal against a 12-point deduction imposed after they were found to have paid Peter McMahon while he was registered as an amateur.

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"Portadown have had their well publicised difficulties off the pitch but that is for them to deal with while we will focus on our issues," added Heatley. "In any league or cup game we will respect the opponent and expect a difficult test."

• Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte has been included in the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad for games against Iceland and Macedonia.

There's strong Irish League representation in the panel with Whyte joined by Linfield duo Paul Smyth and Gareth Deane, Glenavon's Rhys Marshall, Mark Sykes and Joel Cooper along with Cliftonville ace Jay Donnelly.

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