Belfast Telegraph

Pressure is cranking up on Reds, says Heatley

By Graham Luney

Paul Heatley says Cliftonville will be feeling the pressure on Boxing Day as the Reds battle to stay in the title race. Defeat at Seaview would see Gerard Lyttle's men fall 11 points behind the champions and the Crues will become red-hot favourites to retain the Gibson Cup.

Stephen Baxter's Crusaders boast the best defensive record this season and are also top goalscorers as they continue to sweep aside Premiership rivals.

The Reds hope to keep the heat on their neighbours but a Boxing Day loss would leave them relying on an unlikely collapse from the Hatchetmen in 2016.

"All the pressure is on them," said last season's Player of the Year. "This game is a bit of a luxury for us in the sense that we can relax and enjoy our football knowing we are in a good position and a victory would put us in an even more commanding position.

"It's important we show what we are capable of and we will have a better chance of doing that if we are confident and relaxed.

"Nothing will be decided in terms of the title race on Saturday but 11 points would be a healthy lead.

"I don't think we can underestimate any side in this league and Linfield have got going again but we are in a fantastic position.

"I think we are 12 points better off now than at this stage last season and that shows there have been improvements and we are being more intelligent when it comes to seeing games out.

"But Cliftonville are always tough opponents and other than ourselves, they are playing the best football in the country so we will show them huge respect."

Heatley was thrilled to see his strike partner, Jordan Owens, match Glenn Hunter's goalscoring record with the Crues.

"After matching Glenn's 157 strikes it's all set up for Jordan to break the record on Boxing Day," added Heatley.

"He's only 26-years-old and could be banging in the goals for another six years.

"It's a huge honour and well deserved because he has worked incredibly hard over the years."

Belfast Telegraph


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