Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders boss Baxter: Lafferty was a thorn in our side

By Simon Milligan

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter and opposite number Whitey Anderson both acknowledged the contribution of Ballinamallard United attacker Johnny Lafferty in this thrilling Ferney Park stalemate.

Since signing for the Mallards men in the close season, Lafferty is fast earning a reputation as one to watch.

On Saturday the Tyrone man, cast in a supporting role to Liam Martin, was a constant thorn in the side of the Crues defence and created the opener for midfielder John Currie to volley home with barely eight minutes on the clock.

Ultimately, a low Paul Heatley shot on the hour mark earned the Seaview men a share of the spoils but Lafferty remained a threat until the final whistle.

"Johnny Lafferty in that role showed how good a player he is. I thought he was outstanding and his quality shone through," enthused Anderson.

Crues supremo Baxter agreed: "Lafferty did very well in linking that part of it with a couple of speedy players around him."

When quizzed on whether or not he was disappointed with the final outcome, the visiting boss added: "Yes and no. Obviously we set our stall out to win three points and the amount of possession we had in the second half, we didn't make it pay by creating enough clean cut opportunities to score.

"Then in the last minute, Ballinamallard broke up the pitch and nearly scored. And then we would have been crying in our boots.

"When you push as hard as we were pushing in the second half, you can expose yourself. They were hoofing the ball out of there and we were leaving ourselves open. On paper you might say you have to be come to places like Ferney and win if you want to be in the title race but Ballinamallard are in this league because they work incredibly hard, they have good players, they have a great manager, they work tirelessly for each other and are in good form."

Following Currie's opener, the best the Crues offered in the first period saw Colin Coates volley into the side netting following a free kick by Heatley who, moments earlier, had tested Stefan McCusker with a stinging 25-yarder.

The visitors cranked it up in the second half and Heatley duly equalised by controlling a knock down by Jordan Owens to fire home.

Ballinamallard might have won it at the death when Foy raced clear but, rather than going it alone, the substitute was caught in two minds and a glorious opportunity went begging.

Ferney boss Anderson was a little disappointed not to have secured the win but was delighted with the performance.

"We could have nicked the win in the end," he said. "Our boys were tremendous. They showed a lot of character and worked extremely hard. Our back five were magnificent, the midfield worked hard and I just thought we did really well. It's a great point against one of the teams challenging for the league."

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