Belfast Telegraph

Quarter-final woe could easily spill over into the league title race, warns Beverland

By Graham Luney

Howard Beverland believes there's more at stake than just a place in the semi-finals of the Tennent's Irish Cup at Seaview on Saturday.

Crusaders and Linfield will battle it out for a last-four spot and the north Belfast venue won't be a place for the faint-hearted.

With the Crues holding a seven-point lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and the Blues refusing to throw in the towel, there could be more twists in the title race and this weekend's result will deliver a huge psychological blow to one of the league's big guns.

With Stephen Baxter's side fortunate to leave Portadown with a point last Saturday, the champions will need to go through the gears against a side who are unbeaten against them this season.

"The game can be all about the small yards and advantages and whoever wins this game will hope that it's a result which has a psychological impact on their opponents," said former Coleraine skipper Beverland, who along with Paul Heatley missed the Ports stalemate through suspension.

"The rivalry between the teams and the importance of the game to the players means that defeat would be a real blow. It's a match that carries that kind of weight and importance.

"Linfield are a strong side but for us it's not about revenge, it's about doing ourselves justice and progressing to the semi-finals of a competition we want to win."

Beverland and his comrades at the back were caught cold by Linfield in the County Antrim Shield decider and they will need to be alive to Linfield's set-piece threat at Seaview. "The County Antrim Shield final was over after 15 minutes because we conceded twice from set-pieces and we pride ourselves on not letting that happen so we have to work on that," added the centre-back.

"Crusaders haven't won the Irish Cup since 2009 which is a long time for a club that has been good enough to win back-to-back titles.

"I joined the Crues because I believed they were the best team in the country and there was an exciting opportunity to be involved in big games such as this. Given the quality and strength in depth at Seaview, I expected to challenge for the big trophies."

• A late penalty save from keeper Jackie Burns secured a point for Northern Ireland women as they drew 0-0 with Slovakia in their opening match of the Istria Cup in Croatia.

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