Crusaders won't panic in Irish League title race says Declan Caddell
WHEN Mark Patton poked home an equaliser for Glenavon shortly after half-time on Saturday, Crusaders might have started to wonder if their first-half misses would cost them.
Declan Caddell had opened the scoring for the Crues early on but they found themselves repelled by a combination of wastefulness and a fine performance from Jonathan Tuffey in the Glenavon goal.
Paul Heatley was twice denied the ‘keeper, while David Cushley spurned a great chance when he rolled against the inside of the post after a defensive error played him in.
But Caddell, who calmly squared late on for Jordan Owens to seal the win, said that the winning mentality they’ve built up over recent seasons ensures that there is no panic.
“We had five or six gilt-edged chances in the first half and we were only able to take one of them. Paul Heatley missed a couple, David Cushley missed a couple.
“We controlled the first half and they came out and maybe caught us a wee bit off guard so soon in the second half. We always felt in control of the game, we always knew we’d get three or four more chances.
“Johnny Tuffey was their best player, he made a couple of world class saves, but there were some bad misses too. I think when you go one-on-one with the ‘keeper, you need to be putting the ball in the net and we have the strikeforce to do that.
“But we’re ticking away nicely I think over the last three or four weeks, we’re going through the gears rightly and we’re improving every week.
“We have been in control of a lot of the games we’ve been playing recently. At the start of the season we weren’t playing as well as we could; we were struggling for goals and struggling for opportunities.
“The last two or three weeks, we’re cutting teams open and controlling games. We feel in control, we don’t feel under pressure. It’s a good stepping stone going into next week.”
Christmas week brings their traditional meetings with Cliftonville (St. Stephen’s Day) and Linfield (New Year’s Eve).
Their city rivals respectively sit six and five points behind them in the table and Caddell feels that the fixtures could be critical in deciding whether the Gibson Cup stays at Seaview for a third successive summer.
“If you want to go on and win trophies, you need to beat the big teams. That’s what we’ve managed to do the past couple of years.
“When we’ve played the Cliftonvilles and Linfields, we’ve managed to get those wins and push further ahead. Over the festive period we’ll be looking to do the same.
“We just have that winning mentality, so we’ve been winning even when we haven’t been playing well earlier in the season.
“Cliftonville and Linfield have been playing brilliantly, and both improved their squads over the summer.
“The gap [between Crusaders and the chasing pack] isn’t as far, I don’t think, as everybody makes out. The difference is that Stevie’s instilled that winning mentality into the players, and that’s why we’ve managed to get so many points late in games.
“Games where we’re struggling and drawing or getting beat, we’ve managed to scrape that one point or three points. That’s why we’re sitting in the position that we are.”