Belfast Telegraph

We must prove we deserve to be at Linfield, says Lowry

By Graham Luney

Linfield ace Stephen Lowry says David Healy was right to blast the team after the 5-2 hammering dished out by Crusaders at Windsor Park on Monday and admits the players - including himself - are now fighting for their futures at the club.

The Blues conceded five goals at home in a league game for the first time since 1994 and it was a result which saw Healy's side fall 10 points behind Danske Bank Premiership pacesetters Coleraine.

While there remains plenty of time for Linfield to spring into life and get back in the title race, the champions are nowhere near their sparkling best and must get their act together quickly.

With Crusaders expected to put up another challenge for the Gibson Cup and impressive resurgences happening at Coleraine and Glenavon, the Blues need to start flexing muscles.

Back-to-back games against Ards at Windsor Park, in the league tomorrow and County Antrim Shield on Monday night, now take on huge significance and Lowry accepts some of the players could be heading for the exit door unless they start delivering.

"The manager has every right to criticise the players and question our desire," said the former Coleraine ace. "When the results and performances are not good enough, the manager will make his feelings clear and that's understandable. But there's only one way we can put things right - on the pitch.

"We are well aware of our responsibilities and the demands and expectations. As champions we should be doing a lot better but we have time to put things right. There is pressure to perform and the management and fans will make their feelings clear if the players don't do their jobs.

"The players have a point to prove and a few of us, including myself, are out of contract at the end of the season and if we want to stay at the club we will need to raise our game. I can only speak for myself with regard to my desire to stay at Linfield and win more trophies but there's a fight to get into the team, stay in it and perform. We are fighting for our futures. Performances have been inconsistent and we need to start delivering."

The Linfield players have been backed into a corner before and come out fighting, famously last season when they produced a sensational run to pip Crusaders to the title and their mental toughness is being tested again.

"We have come through difficult periods before and that's what we must do again but we are judged on performances and they are not reaching the standards we have set," added Lowry.

"These moments test your character and hunger. We are the only ones who can turn our form around and we'll have to work harder to do that.

"We have been questioned at various stages and last season we were able to rise to the occasion. This game isn't easy and winning a title isn't easy but we mustn't leave ourselves an even bigger mountain to climb.

"It's up to us to show what fight we have within us and then we can prove people wrong. I've no doubt things will turn and I think teams will have a bad patch at some point. There's a long way to go and we need to react against Ards."

Linfield vs Ards

Danske Bank Premiership:

Windsor Park, Tomorrow, 3pm

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