Curtis Allen: Caley Thistle will hold no fears for Crusaders in Irn-Bru Cup tie

Crusaders disposed of Dundee United in the quarter-finals.

Former Caley Thistle striker Curtis Allen gives Crusaders a fighting chance of winning their Irn-Bru Cup semi-final.

Allen, who had a brief six-month stint with Inverness in 2013, plays for fellow Northern Irish side Glentoran and sees first-hand the quality Crusaders possess.

The Danske Bank Premiership leaders dumped out Dundee United at Tannadice in the previous round, so should not be overawed by a trip to the Highland capital with a spot in the final at stake.

Crusaders would be the first team outwith Scotland to make the final of the Challenge Cup since teams from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales were introduced at the start of last season.

Allen said: “Going over and beating Dundee United will stand them in good stand and Inverness will hold no fears for them.

“Gavin Whyte is their most in-form player and scores a lot of goals. Paul Heatley is a threat in attack and they have a big lad up front, Jordan Owens, and everything goes through him.

“Their squad is made up of players who have experience of the Irish league and played across the water. They threw away the league last year but have built a very good squad.”

Among the Crusaders players is Darren Murray, who had a trial with Caley Thistle under John Hughes in 2015. Their first-choice goalkeeper is 42-year-old Brian Jensen, who played in the Premier League with Burnley.

Allen’s own career at Caley Thistle never got going. A knee injury sustained in his first training session, coupled with the time needed to get up to speed with full-time football, sidelined him for four months. The form of Billy Mckay prevented him from getting an opportunity in the first-team and he left without an appearance in December 2013.

The 29-year-old primary school teacher has been at Glentoran ever since but does not regret his move to Scotland.

He said: “It just didn’t work out. The new manager came in and the fact I hadn’t played didn’t paint a great picture. I’d never had a long-term injury before and I just wasn’t enjoying it. But I’m still glad I went over and I know I could have scored goals in Scotland.

“By the time I got back fit, Inverness were third and Billy Mckay was banging the goals in. He wasn’t going to be dropped and rightly so. I spoke to Richie Foran who said not to make my mind up too quickly, so I had another think about it before asking the club for my release.

“Unless there’s a ridiculous offer, I’m past the age of going back (to Scotland or England). Football is a short career and I’m enjoying it just now.”