Belfast Telegraph

No pressure on Crusaders on passionate night against Linfield, insists Heatley

 

By Graham Luney

Paul Heatley believes there is more pressure on Linfield than Crusaders in tonight's blockbuster BetMcLean League Cup quarter-final at Seaview (7.45pm).

The Crues have conquered the Blues twice in the Premiership already this season with Heatley on target in both the 2-1 victory at the Shore Road venue in September and then that 5-2 thumping at Windsor Park last month.

Stephen Baxter's side have a spring in their step after winning six games on the spin while David Healy's men have only won three of their last nine fixtures.

Linfield's number one priority remains their title defence but they are struggling to assert their authority on teams and have slipped 11 points behind leaders Coleraine.

The Blues have also crashed out of the County Antrim Shield following a shock home defeat to Ards and another knockout blow tonight would be hard to swallow ahead of titanic league games with Coleraine and Glenavon.

But the Crues are in no mood to show any mercy and after reaching the last four of the Shield and IRN-BRU Cup they are clearly thirsty for silverware.

"We've put a good run together and in the last five or six weeks we have moved up a few gears," said Crues winger Heatley. "But we aren't looking too far ahead, it's a case of enjoying our football and always looking to improve.

"What's pleasing is the players who have come into the team have performed really well and the manager can be confident he has plenty of strong options.

"We have beaten Linfield twice already this season but this Cup tie is a one-off game and a fantastic opportunity for us to progress to a third semi-final of the season after making it to the last four of the IRN-BRU Cup and County Antrim Shield.

"I don't think there is any real pressure on us because it's not a big league game and what's important is we keep our standards high. Linfield will feel they have stuttered a bit in the league but that happens to everyone and that's an issue for them to deal with.

"You know what to expect in these matches, there is passion, a great atmosphere and a strong hunger and desire to win.

"It's about how we perform individually and collectively as a team that matters. I'm confident that if we can put in another good performance we can make it to another semi-final."

The north Belfast side were up early on Saturday morning to take on Dundee United in Scotland and Gavin Whyte's late winner sealed a memorable 2-1 victory over the IRN-BRU Cup holders at Tannadice.

Crusaders' reward is a semi-final clash away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on February 17/18. Welsh side TNS will host Dumbarton in the other semi.

Inverness lie seventh in the Scottish Championship after only winning three of their 12 games.

Heatley was an unused substitute for the United showdown, leaving him fresh for a crack at the old enemy tonight.

"It was an early flight out to Scotland but that's part and parcel of life in this competition and you get on with it," he added.

"It was a great experience and result for the squad.

"It's a brilliant achievement getting to the semi-finals and beating a side with the history of Dundee United.

"There's a unique opportunity to make the final of the tournament which would be incredible.

"They normally compete at a higher standard and it's always worthwhile testing yourself against players of that calibre. It was a good test for the boys and we passed it with flying colours."

Crusaders vs Linfield

Seaview

Tonight 7.30pm

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