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Crues left to ponder what might have been after a title collapse.

Byline: LAURE JAMES

MISERY and deflation could have been forgiven at Seaview, yet given the past week of reflection after handing Linfield the advantage, the blow of surrendering the Irish Premiership title was softened.

A 6-1 win over Glenavon, demonstrating to the supporters they would fight to the death, also helped breed positivity according to Howard Beverland, after Crusaders finished with 87 points, one of the greatest tallies of any Irish League runners-up.

"Right now it does feel surprisingly upbeat," Beverland said. "A lot of that will be down to the performance today, that's because we wanted to make sure that we showed the fans, whatever happened elsewhere, we did our part and finished as strongly as we possibly could."

First-half doubles from Michael Carvill and Paul Heatley were added to by Jordan Owens' neatly curled finish on 75 minutes, and Matthew Snoddy's injury-time strike.

Applauding Linfield's sustained and successful challenge for the title, Beverland added: "Credit must go to Linfield, in this league whoever wins it deserves it.

"And that's why our league is different to any cup competition because it's over a space of over 30 games in the season so whoever comes top, that success and achievement is always undisputed.

"At one minute, it looked as if the tide might turn but things were overthrown quite quickly.

"All we could have done was our own thing and thankfully we did that and more."

Four first-half goals meant Crues were in control at the break, and Billy-Joe Burns admitted, also acutely aware of Cliftonville's temporary lead, before Linfield bit back.

"We knew the score at half-time, but we also knew how that changed later on in the match," Burns said.

"Some things you simply have no control over, and it's difficult to play in those circumstances but we gave an excellent account of ourselves today."

Meanwhile, a summer of Europa League preliminaries awaits for Stephen Baxter's (above) men.

Beverland added: "We have given ourselves a few things to think about, particularly moments where we could have wrapped it up sooner, but Linfield deserve this.

"I think to be honest, the majority of people were behind Linfield going out there and getting a result at Solitude, I think what gave us a bit of hope, as far as that game was concerned, was Tommy Breslin coming in and giving Cliftonville that fresh confidence for a win.

"It obviously gave them a lift for a while, but not enough for us."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2017
Words:411
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