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Warren Feeney and Sean Ward issue rallying call to Linfield stars

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All to play for: Linfield ace Sean Ward (left) has urged his side to give everything as they attempt to catch Crusaders

All to play for: Linfield ace Sean Ward (left) has urged his side to give everything as they attempt to catch Crusaders

All to play for: Linfield ace Sean Ward (left) has urged his side to give everything as they attempt to catch Crusaders

Warren Feeney and Sean Ward have united in demanding a reaction from Linfield following their Irish Cup exit - or risk their title challenge fizzling out early.

And the manager and defender are both warning that the Blues must toughen up if they are to have any chance of stopping Crusaders from walking away with the Gibson Cup.

Last Saturday's cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Portadown has left Linfield with just the Premiership title to chase and although they have a six-point gap to claw back over the space of eight matches, neither Feeney nor Ward is prepared to give up.

"We have eight games, eight massive games, eight massive focuses," said Ward, ahead of tomorrow's home meeting with Warrenpoint Town.

"We are very disappointed and gutted that we are out of the Irish Cup, because we thought that we could go on and achieve something.

"Now all our energy has to go into the league and the remaining games.

"People have been constantly going on about twists and turns. If it happens, it happens. A couple of weeks ago we were in control, we're not now, we have to rely on other teams to do us favours.

"It'll be tough, but we'll knuckle down, we'll get our heads down and rebuild and hopefully go on a run.

"Who knows? By the end of April the league will be won and we'll have a go at it."

Despite the disappointment of their Irish Cup exit, Feeney saw qualities in his team's performance against Portadown that has given him belief that they can at least push Crusaders all the way for the title.

At 3-0 down at half time they looked to already be out of the competition, but a second-half rally made it a nervy finish for the Ports and Feeney is demanding that the attitude is repeated in every game between now and the end of the campaign.

"We work on things in training about being ruthless around both boxes and the second-half spirit from the Portadown game is what we've got to show for the next eight games," he said.

"There is still a lot of football to be played. We've got to worry about the next eight games and we've got to hope there will be twists and turns.

"The players set a standard and they've got to carry that on.

"I don't want to see anyone cheating or shying away, that second-half performance is what I want to see in players.

"We're second in the league and we've got to carry on."

Being more ruthless is a recurring theme with the Blues, who have only won twice in the league in 2015.

Ward isn't concerned about a lack of ability in the Linfield squad. Instead, he believes the problems have been down to mistakes and a failure to deal with them.

"There's no doubt that we have a lot of quality on our team, we just need to be a bit more consistent and a bit more ruthless," said Ward.

"I think when we talk about consistency, it's actually naivety we show quite a bit.

"The first half against Portadown wasn't good enough and it's been that like throughout the season - and I'm as guilty of that as anyone else.

"We need to start ironing out the collective errors and the individual errors.

"We have a lot of very, very good players and it needs to happen quickly if we're going to come out of the season with something and we're certainly not throwing the towel in."

Belfast Telegraph