Football/Soccer

We won't be found wanting against Cliftonville against insists Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte

Gavin Whyte scored twice in Crusaders's 6-1 win over Glenavon on Tuesday night, abd Stephen Baxter's table-toppers are eyeing another win at Solitude today. Picture by Pacemaker

Danske Bank Premiership: Cliftonville v Crusaders (today, 3pm, Solitude)

FLYING winger Gavin Whyte insists Crusaders won’t be found wanting in the hunger department again as they eye revenge for last month’s Irish Cup hiding at the hands of Cliftonville.

The Reds ran out 4-1 winners at Solitude, a Joe Gormley hat-trick helping them move into the last eight in emphatic fashion at the expense of their north Belfast rivals.

It wasn’t without controversy however, as the Crues had Declan Caddell sent off for a second booking in the build-up to the first of two Gormley penalties.

The Cliftonville striker had his initial effort saved by Brian Jensen but referee Raymond Hetherington ordered a retake as the dismissed Caddell wasn't fully off the pitch, and Gormley made no mistake.

It was a huge talking point after the game, even though the Reds ran out such convincing winners, but Whyte doesn’t believe it had a major bearing on the final result.

“We simply weren’t good enough that day, even without the penalty decision,” says the 21-year-old.

“Cliftonville were hungrier that day. We went out to do our best but it wasn’t good enough; that can happen in those kind of games.

“Tomorrow we’re going to want it more and we’re going to do our best to get the win.”

And getting wins is something they have been accustomed to. Of their last 20 games in the Danske Bank Premiership, Crusaders have won 18 and drawn two.

In that time they have overtaken Coleraine at the top of the table and now hold a five-point lead over the Bannsiders, while on Tuesday night they turned in an awesome display to trounce third-placed Glenavon 6-1.

“We’re flying at the minute, but you still have to take one game at a time,” added Whyte.

“It’s going to be another tough game tomorrow but we played brilliant the other night. We battered Glenavon. If we play like we did the other night I think we’ll be alright.

“All the boys are buzzing and the changing room’s brilliant at the minute. We’re five points clear and we hope to keep it that way.”

And while Cliftonville failed to build on that derby win early February, struggling for form since, Stephen Baxter’s men are showing little sign of letting up.

They have been here before of course, this time last year when they squandered a huge lead before being pipped by Linfield at the death.

And the pain of that memory, Whyte says, will drive them on as they bid to bring the Gibson Cup back to Seaview.

He continued: “Everyone’s still talking about it – it was a big thing last year and it’s still going to be in the back of our heads, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“There’s nothing we can do about that now, we have to just concentrate on this year.”

Whyte was among the goals against Glenavon during the week, bagging two in the Mourneview Park rout, but striker Jordan Owens stole the show – and the match ball – by bagging a hat-trick.

And Whyte believes the January arrival of fellow striker Darren Murray, once of today’s opponents, has re-energised Owens.

“He had a wee dip in confidence there but I think the big man’s back to his best.

“Darren Murray coming in gave him a wee bit of a boost because when Darren came in, ‘Chicken’ had to up his game a bit and now the big man’s flying.”

IRISH LEAGUE STATS

(all games 3pm kick-off)

Ballinamallard United v Ards

BALLINAMALLARD – without a win since their stunning 6-4 defeat of Cliftonville at the end of January – need to start picking up points, and fast. They currently sit seven points adrift of Carrick Rangers at the bottom of the table and welcome an Ards side who have picked up two wins in their last three.

Odds: H: 15/8 D: 12/5 A: 11/10

Prediction: Draw

Ballymena United v Coleraine

COLERAINE have done little wrong in recent weeks but, with the Crusaders juggernaut rolling on, they sit five points off top spot. Have drawn twice with Ballymena already this season, and beat them once, so a tight battle lies ahead.

Odds: H: 5/2 D: 13/5 A: 5/6

Prediction: Draw

Cliftonville v Crusaders

NOT quite the spice of years gone by with Cliftonville miles adrift of their table-topping rivals, but north Belfast derbies have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Coming off a 6-1 win over Glenavon on Tuesday, the Crues’ confidence will be sky high.

Odds: H: 2/1 D: 13/5 A: Evs

Prediction: Crusaders

Glenavon v Glentoran

GARY Hamilton will have a job on his hands trying to put the heavy midweek defeat to Crusaders in the rear-view mirror. Glentoran, under interim boss Ronnie McFall have won their last two games and travel to Mourneview with a spring in their step.

Odds: H: 4/9 D: 16/5 A: 9/2

Prediction: Glenavon

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

LINFIELD have designs on closing the six point gap to third-placed Glenavon and are expected to keep the pressure on with victory over second-from-bottom Carrick Rangers.

Odds: H: 1/10 D: 7/1 A: 13/1

Prediction: Linfield

Warrenpoint Town v Dungannon Swifts

FORMER Dundalk player Stephen McDonnell takes charge of Warrenpoint for the first time when they welcome Dungannon to Milltown. The Swifts have edged all three meetings between the sides this season.

Odds: H: 6/4 D: 12/5 A: 7/5

Prediction: Draw

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