Football/Soccer

Crusaders drawn to face Inverness in Scottish Challenge Cup last-four

Gavin Whyte was the late hero for Crusaders against Dundee United last weekend

Irish League Cup quarter-final: Crusaders v Linfield (tonight, Seaview, 7.45pm)

CRUSADERS' reward for knocking holders Dundee United out of the Scottish Challenge Cup is a trip to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the last-four of the competition.

The Crues, who host Linfield tonight in their League Cup quarter-final clash, pulled off a shock last weekend thanks to substitute Gavin Whyte's injury-time strike at Tannadice.

At yesterday's draw in Glasgow, the north Belfast men were kept apart from the other non-Scottish team in the semi-finals, The New Saints of Wales, who were drawn at home to Dumbarton. The semi-final ties will be held on the weekend of February 17-18.

Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell, who was in Scotland for yesterday's draw, is relishing the opportunity to go further in the competition.

"It gives us a great opportunity to showcase our club and the Irish League as a whole," Caddell said.

"We'll take a lot of confidence from the Dundee United result. They didn't give us or the Irish League a lot of respect, so it was great to go over there and get a result.”

Caddell added: "It's nice that this competition takes places in the middle of our season rather than at the very start, like the European competitions. We can go into this semi-final in top gear.

"There's a huge incentive for us to push on now and do something that no other Irish League team has done before by reaching a Scottish Challenge Cup final."

As for tonight's League Cup quarter-final at Seaview, Linfield manager David Healy has laid down the gauntlet to his players following last Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership defeat to Ballymena United.

"I spoke to the players after the Ballymena game - we will regroup but we have to be better," said Healy, who guided the Blues to the league title last term.

"We have to start beating some of the top sides… we are not doing that at the minute. I'm hugely disappointed.

“One thing that we will do and I'll certainly do and I'll make sure the players do is that we rally and go again and we come back stronger. But we can't keep losing games of football, I hate the feeling.”

The Blues boss added: “There's no hiding place at Seaview and we'll need to be miles better than we were against Ballymena to give ourselves an opportunity of progressing into the next round.”

The main threat to Healy's troops tonight should come from prolific duo Jordan Owens and Paul Heatley, not to mention the Shore Road men's Challenge Cup hero Gavin Whyte.

The Linfield manager has been doing his best to ensure confidence is high enough in the ranks to deal successfully with these threats: “I hope the players regain a little bit of their confidence and belief because I certainly haven't given up on the players in the dressing room and it's up to me now to get them ready for a big game.”

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