Match day 34 of the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership ushers in the first round of fixtures to be played after the top six split in the table, with Linfield welcoming Crusaders FC to Windsor Park (7.45pm ko, all-ticket). The teams last met in February at Seaview with Crusaders winning 2-0, with the previous Windsor Park meeting in November finishing scoreless.

Crusaders will be heading to Windsor Park in high spirits after defeating Dungannon Swifts (1-0), to book their place with Ballymena United, in this season’s upcoming Irish Cup Final. Whilst manager Stephen Baxter has conceded that his team has now dropped out of title contention, there is still a much coveted European qualification place to push on for. 

Linfield have hit top form at precisely the right time in the season, having produced ruthless displays in their last two outings, firing home twelve unanswered goals past the relegation threatened Newry City (h7-0) and Dungannon Swifts (a5-0). The Blues however are sitting five points behind League leaders Larne, with just five games now left remaining to play. In all probability, they will need to win every one of these five games, treating each as cup finals in their own right! Crucially though, it appears that David Healy's men have embraced the tightrope of knowing that just one slip could potentially end their challenge for title honours. 

The stage is set for another massive night of football under the glare of the Windsor Park floodlights. David will be expecting nothing less than a difficult ninety minutes from a Crusaders side intent on taking all three points back to Seaview. In this the business end of the season, it is all about keeping focus and forging wins against top opposition. Hopefully, the Blues can produce the match winning performance needed to keep the momentum built up over the last few weeks going. Time to raise the roof and cheer on the Blues! COYB! 

Ken Garrett

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