Relief for Baxter as Crues grind out victory
Ballinamallard United 0 Crusaders 1
They might not have been at their best but Crusaders remain five points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership as Jordan Forysthe's 28th minute goal sealed the points on their trip to Ferney Park.
This was a hard-earned win for the Crues with Ballinamallard United having the better of the chances, but it was the visitors who came up with the only goal of the game and manager Stephen Baxter acknowledged the importance of being able to grind out wins as they pursue a remarkable hat-trick of championship victories.
"Maybe we didn't play with the fluency that I would liked us to have played with but, nonetheless, when you are away from home, grinding out performances is important as well," said Baxter.
"Ballinamallard played exceptionally well and they should have been 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes of this football match and there was a couple of really good tackles from us to stop that happening.
"Then I felt we grew into the game and started to play quite well for 20 minutes pre-half time and we got the goal that proved decisive.
"The second half was pretty even but we are pleased, we got the three points and that was what we were after."
The victory keeps Crusaders clear of chasers Linfield and Cliftonville but Baxter is adamant that the focus remains on taking it one game at a time.
"I'm pleased with where we are at but there is such a long way to go in this campaign so you take nothing for granted. You've just got to take each game as it comes," he added.
Ballinamallard manager Gavin Dykes saw his side waste a couple of good chances in the first half with Johnny Lafferty having one effort blocked while the other crashed off the crossbar.
"I thought we were very good today and I can't fault the way we played or the effort," he said.
"We created a couple of great chances and when you have the league champions hanging on we are doing something right.
"If we play like that and bring that attitude into the second part of the season we will be fine.
The Mallards will lose leading goalscorer Adam Lecky when he leaves for Australia next month but Dykes is confident of adding to his squad.
"Hopefully we will have three players in that will strengthen the group," he said.
BALLINAMALLARD: Crawford, McMenamin, Taheny (McIlwaine, 84 mins), Feeney (Owens, 77 mins), McGinty, McKenna, Lafferty, McCartney, McConnell, Lecky, Mayse.
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Gault, Cushley (Clarke, 81 mins), Caddell, Forsythe, McClean, Heatley (Carvill, 64 mins), Whyte, Owens.
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast) 7