Football/Soccer

Rory Hale lauds impact of strength & conditioning coach Peter Strain for brilliant start

Rory Hale celebrates his winning goal for Crusaders against Linfield last Friday night

Bet McLean League Cup Second Round

CRUSADERS’ man of the moment Rory Hale credits the work of strength and conditioning coach Peter Strain for his fantastic start to the season.

The former Aston Villa U23 captain grabbed the only goal of the game in last Friday night’s eagerly awaited meeting with defending league champions Linfield, which summed up his sparkling form since the beginning of the new campaign.

“Peter Strain has helped me a lot since pre-season,” said Hale. “He’s really improved me, physically. My legs are a lot stronger and I’m a lot fitter. Last year I played 50 games for Derry City, had a month off and then I had another six months of a season [with Crusaders]. I’ve had a great break and had one of the best pre-seasons and thankfully I’ve got off to a flyer.”

Hale could be one of several Crues players rested for tonight’s League Cup round two trip to Limavady United with a tricky league assignment away to Ballymena United this weekend.

“I want to play in every game because there are that many players fighting for a shirt, so you don’t want to be rested for any game,” said the Newington native.

Once a prolific striker in his teenage years, Hale was signed by Crusaders as a holding midfielder but has shown his worth further up the pitch this season.

“As long as I’m playing I don’t mind where I play,” said the former Republic of Ireland U21 international.

“I suppose the best games I’ve played this season have been in the holding midfield role, but I’ve had good games in the number 10 role as well. I’ve created some chances and scored in that position against Institute. As long as I stay in the team and we’re winning, I’m happy.”

While the Crues are on League Cup duty tonight, their priority will be to win back the league title from Linfield this season.

Their 1-0 victory over the Blues put Stephen Baxter’s men five ahead from Coleraine 10 ahead of the champions who are fifth in the table.

“It was massive win for us on Friday night - it’s massive in any league,” said Hale.

“Down south, Shamrock Rovers were 15 points clear of Dundalk at one stage and lost the league by 10 points. That win puts us in a good position but there’s so much football to be played. Linfield now have to win their games in hand – two of which are away to Ballymena and Larne – and no team is guaranteed three points in those games. We just have to keep putting points on the board and let them chase us.”

Bet McLean League Cup Second Round (7.45 kick-off): Ballymena United v Dollingstown, Cliftonville v Bangor, Coleraine v Glentoran, Dungannon Swifts v Linfield, Institute v H&W Welders, Larne v Dundela, Limavady v Crusaders

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