Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Lowry: Linfield are out to land a title blow

By Graham Luney

Stephen Lowry plans to keep the feelgood factor at Windsor Park rolling on.

While the Northern Ireland international side remain on course to reach the Euro 2016 finals in France next June, Linfield have sprinted out of the starting blocks Usain Bolt style to establish an early lead in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Six wins out of six and only two goals conceded, Warren Feeney's side are brimming with confidence ahead of their trip to Seaview to face champions Crusaders on Saturday.

The visitors know a victory will open up an eight-point gap on the Shore Road men - an impressive advantage which would leave the Crues playing catch-up.

This heavyweight clash is expected to be the toughest test for a Linfield side desperate to win a first league title since 2012.

Last season they finished 10 points behind the Hatchetmen but their early season form hints at a stronger challenge this time round and midfielder Lowry says he's surrounded by smiling faces.

"I'm feeling really good about this year," said the former Coleraine ace.

"The team are playing really well and that's when you enjoy your football. Guy Bates has added strength and power up front and we aren't going route one, we are playing the ball through the middle and it's paying off for us.

"There is definitely more belief this season and I think that comes from the extra quality Warren (Feeney) has brought to the club.

"We are going about our business in the same way as last season but the good run has kept confidence high and you want to keep it going.

"There's a great atmosphere in training and on match day and you want that to be reflected in the performances.

"Everyone is buzzing at the moment and the new boys have settled in well.

"Of course we are under pressure to perform this season but we are relishing that and just want to keep this winning run going.

"I think what happened at the end of last season has been pushed under the rug and we are now looking forward with optimism."

With Linfield sitting pretty at the summit, this is perhaps a good time to face Crusaders as they will arrive in north-Belfast keen to keep their 100 per cent record alive.

But there are also signs that the champions are clicking into gear. After failing to win either of their first two league battles they have won four on the spin including Saturday's superb derby win at Cliftonville.

"This will be a very tough game and a real test but we know ourselves we have to stand up and be counted against the big sides in the league if we want to sustain a title challenge," added Lowry.

"Last season we failed to do that but this is a different group and we are going to Seaview in confident mood.

"Any game against the champions is going to be massive and if we can win it we will be eight points ahead of them and it's a great incentive for us.

"Whoever finishes above the Crues will win the league but no side wants to be eight points behind and playing catch-up.

"They are a big strong physical side but we are going there to win the game and see off a big side like we did against Portadown.

"The Crues proved last year they can go the distance and we want to do the same.

"There's a long way to go but the boys have started really well and it's all about staying focused and taking it game by game.

"From a personal point of view this is my second season at the club and I'm expecting to be a lot stronger.

"The disappointment we felt at the end of last season is not on our minds anymore. It's all about doing the business in the months ahead."

Belfast Telegraph


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