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Devlin hands out a strong case in Cliftonville defence

Goalkeeper Conor Devlin acknowledges that Cliftonville are in for a tough test against Crusaders in tonight's Irn Bru League Cup Final but is backing the men in front of him to stand strong in the heat of battle.

The former Manchester United shot-stopper has full faith that, despite the growing exertions provided by a season which began way back in June, his team mates are up to the task of overcoming their North Belfast derby rivals at Windsor Park.

“I have confidence in the boys in front of me and they have confidence in one another,” explains the 21-year-old.

“Our defence has been pretty settled over the last wee while and that always helps but we know that Crusaders will work us really hard because that's what they're good at.

“They're a big, physical team who can put themselves about and we didn't deal with that at all when they battered us at Seaview earlier in the season.

“We beat them at Solitude last month but it was a tight game and you'd have to say the Cup Final will probably be similar.”

And Devlin, who will be featuring in the first final of his senior career when he trots out at Windsor Park tonight, believes that manager Tommy Breslin has assembled a panel that can mount a sustained challenge on a number of fronts.

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“We've quite a big squad and we know that, if someone drops out of the team here or there for whatever reason, a quality player is going to come in in his place,” he says.

“Obviously, that provides good competition but it also decreases the pressure in a way because players know they can rely on one another's ability. With there being so many matches in different competitions, nobody's going to play in every single game and it can be helpful to know that, if you're maybe feeling the strain a wee bit, someone will come in and do a good job.

“It's different for goalkeepers than it is for outfielders because they're the ones who have to run around the place for 90 minutes and it's good to see that spirit amongst the boys that it's all about the team and the club, not just one person looking out for themselves.

“We've had a good season so far and, I know it's a cliché we've used about a thousand times before, but we really do just take things one game at a time.

“That's the only way you can go about it and it's served us pretty well so far. We don't look ahead to what might be round the corner or what big games are coming up a few weeks down the line because, by then, you might have had a couple of slip-ups after taking your eye off the ball.

“From one match to the next, we just focus on the challenge ahead. The next challenge is Crusaders — a really tough one — and we'll be working hard to make sure we get a good result.”

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