This is a game that has possibly came at the wrong time for the Mallards who are set to be without up to eight players including experienced performers such as James McKenna, Shane McCabe, Stuart Hutchinson and Steve Feeney but manager Gavin Dykes says that they have to go there with a positive frame of mind.
“It’s not ideal that we lose one player but we could potentially be missing seven or eight through injury,” he said.
“However, we have to be positive and go and have a gameplan to try and frustrate Crusaders and maybe try and catch them on the break,” said the Mallards boss.
Dykes acknowledges that there will be added pressure due to the game being televised live but he believes it is also a chance for his young players to show the quality they possess.
“It is difficult going to Seaview at the best of times and it is a different kettle of fish with it being live on television as that brings different pressures for the players. Added to that, we will have a very young team so that is another pressure but it is also an opportunity to showcase what we have. If we can go with the right plan, have plenty of luck which I no doubt know we will need and have plenty of good performances then funnier things have happened but it is a big, big ask.”
League leaders Crusaders are going in search of a third title in a row and Dykes is in no doubt that they are the best side in the league.
“They have a system that works for them, they are physically big and they are strong. They are the best side because they get results and rarely lose.
“We have to try and limit what they are good at. They put balls in the box and big Owens is a handful. They also have strong runners from midfield and we have to be very aware of that. They are just a quality side but we have to make things as difficult as we can for them and if we get a chance we have to take it,” he said.
With the likes of McCabe and McKenna missing, Dykes will lean more on Johnny Lafferty to provide the side with a physical presence on Monday night, the player having settled into a role in midfield.
“He was very good against Ards and he has been great since we put him back into the middle of the park. He does the ugly side of the game very well and his attitude has been smashing. Johnny is physical and is able to look after himself on the pitch but we are going to need big performances from everyone.”
Last Friday night the Mallards lost out to Ards and while Dykes admits it was disappointing, he stresses they just need to put it behind them and move on.
“We didn’t play that well but I didn’t think that Ards played that well either. We gave away a very poor goal but at 1-0 we were right in it and we should have had a penalty too which would have made it a different game. I felt we started the second half well but then we gave away a goal on a counter attack and at 2-0 the game was over. Too many lads didn’t play well enough but it is gone and we have to forget about it and move on quickly,” he said.