IRISH LEAGUE: Crusaders need to upset the history books

Crusaders centre-back Howard Beverland is hoping his side will be above Linfield at close of play today. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Crusaders centre-back Howard Beverland is hoping his side will be above Linfield at close of play today. Photographer - Matt Mackey / Press Eye
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Crusaders are looking to become the first team this century to come from behind to win the Irish League on the final day of the season.

The last time a side entered the final game of the campaign below top spot and ended up with the Gibson Trophy in their hands was, ironically, Linfield, way back in 1994.

Back then, the Blues were behind both Glenavon and Portadown, albeit only on goal difference. However, the two Mid-Ulster clubs slit each other’s throats with a 2-2 draw at Mourneview Park while Linfield saw off Glentoran 2-0 to seal the title.

This time round, the drama is in North Belfast as Crusaders need Cliftonville to beat Linfield while they themslves can afford no slip-ups against Glenavon.

Crues centre-back Howard Beverland is praying both North Belfast clubs can get the job done.

“I think a lot of people are writing Cliftonville off and have written them off based upon their season this year.

“There is quite a different factor now with Tommy Breslin (Cliftonville interim manager) coming in.

“Every player knows and has been there themselves when a new manager comes in and suddenly it brings new life and vibrancy about the place and certain players who perhaps have been out of form this season can bring out one massive game for the sake of the club.

“People are talking about Cliftonville doing us a favour but first and foremost, Cliftonville have to look after themselves.

“It’s a big game for them as well, setting us aside and the title race, for them to secure home advantage in the European play-off, which is a huge opportunity for all the teams involved.

“Cliftonville are a team that pride themselves in their own performance, integrity and commitment to the game to do their best. They’ll not be seeing it as doing anybody a favour but rather doing themselves a favour by putting in a big performance.

“We’ll just have to make sure that we deal with what we have to.

“For the first time this season, it’s out of our hands and that’s been very frustrating to lead it from so early to two games before the end when it just swings around.

“We all knew that it was unlikely that the league was going to be won by a seven or eight point margin given the form of Linfield and ourselves as well.

“We’ll certainly be doing our job and obviously keeping an eye on what’s happening elsewhere.

“It’s a game that can turn in a moment, can turn in seconds and minutes.

“We’re hugely disappointed but we need to put that to the side and we need to go into the game with optimism in knowing that things could change.

“Who knows, first and second place could swing two or three times before the final whistle but we would be delighted and hope that come the final whistle, we’re in the number one position.”