Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's clash with Crusaders is no title decider, insists Waterworth

Crusaders v Linfield, Danske Bank Premiership, Seaview, Saturday, 3.00pm

Fighting fit: Andy Waterworth is focused on claiming three points
Fighting fit: Andy Waterworth is focused on claiming three points

By Alex Mills

Striker Andy Waterworth believes Seaview will be no place for the faint-hearted tomorrow.

When Linfield and Crusaders go head to head, it's always a tasty affair, but with both teams sitting neck and neck at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership, it adds even more spice to the occasion.

Stephen Baxter's title holders may have been written off having already suffered an alarming seven defeats so far, but they are very much back in the mix, tugging at the coat tails of Linfield, who are three points clear of Ballymena United and the Crues.

Both sides go into the showdown in the best possible shape. The Blues haven't tasted defeat in any competition since being beaten in a League clash by David Jeffrey's Sky Blues at the Showgrounds back on December 1 - a run of results which spans to 10 games.

Significantly, Healy's team have turned into a mean machine because they have conceded just three goals during that impressive sequence.

Not only are they sitting pretty at the top of the table, but they have a Shield final - against Crusaders - to negotiate early next month before they meet Ballymena in the final of the League Cup on February 16.

Waterworth admits tomorrow's clash will not be a title decider, but it could well answer a few questions of either side.

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"Three points are up for grabs and that's the bottom line," said Waterworth, who has bagged an incredible 23 goals so far.

"It's always a big game when we meet, but they are all big games at this stage of the season.

"There will be a big crowd packed in and the atmosphere will be great - those are the type of games we all want to play in.

"We'll go there on the back of a good run, but it's important to stay focussed. There is very little between the teams and they (Crusaders) will probably be smarting from the last time we met at Windsor when we ran out 4-1 winners."

It's the start of a hectic schedule particularly for Linfield as they will face Crusaders three times, Ballymena United twice, Newry City twice, and big two rivals Glentoran and Coleraine all before the end of February.

"Our schedule has been really busy since the beginning of December, so it is something we are now used to," added Waterworth.

"I don't think we can dwell too much on what's in front of us.

"We are so heavily involved because we have been winning in every cup competition, which means we now have two finals to negotiate up ahead.

"It's a matter of ticking off each game as it comes. Our priority is the game at Seaview, the rest will fall into line.

"We've prepared well, and our results have been good, so we just had to keep focusing on putting another three points in the locker.

"We know what to expect from the Crusaders. These are games we relish. The title may not be at stake, but I'm sure pride and passion will be the big motivating factor for both sides."

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