Belfast Telegraph

Baxter rues Crusader's bad luck

Crusaders 2-2 Linfield

By Graham Luney

Premiership heavyweights Crusaders and Linfield had to settle for a hard earned point apiece from their blood and thunder battle at Seaview.

The 2-2 stalemate was enough to fire the Crues a point clear at the top of the table but the hosts will be disappointed they conceded the lead twice in another Shore Road thriller.

Seaview supremo Stephen Baxter felt his side should have snatched a priceless victory.

“We were very unlucky not to get all three points,” said Baxter.

“We had two bad mistakes. Colin (Coates) missed a header for the first goal and then Michael Carvill didn't know much about a ball kicked into his chest.

“We created the better chances in the last 10 minutes and their keeper made a great save from Josh (Robinson). It was a high octane game with meaty challenges.

“We are a little disappointed not to win but we will take the one point.

“We hope to challenge for the title but six other teams have the same ambition. So much can change. You can get three draws and fall away but that was a flavour of what we can bring to the league this season.”

Linfield are up to fourth in the standings and boss Warren Feeney hailed his side's fighting spirit in an inhospitable environment.

“I'm delighted with the point but disappointed we didn't win it,” he said.

“I'd like to see the offside decision for Andy Waterworth's goal. I've made mistakes and I'll back my players. I don't think you'll see a fitter team in the league after our game on Saturday.

“They (Crusaders) seemed delighted with a point which says a lot. I want football played the right way but we also had to match them physically and I felt we did that.

“We stood up to the challenge. I don't care what has happened here in the past — I believe in every single one of those players.”

The contest lived up to its top billing with three goals in 10 first-half minutes and the home side had a spring in their step at the break.

Paul Heatley fired the hosts in front in the 27th minute but Waterworth poked home an equaliser two minutes later.

Gavin Whyte's 37th-minute strike ensured Baxter's side were smiling at the break, however Linfield drew level again on 59 minutes through Carvill and a draw was probably a fair outcome after the bruising battle.

In front of a bumper crowd, Crues right back Billy Joe Burns faced his old club for the first time while Carvill came in for Peter Thompson in the visitors’ line-up.

Crusaders defender David Magowan was in the thick of the action from the start and it was his perfectly timed tackle that stopped Ross Clarke's driving run in the 12th minute.

The goal rush started in the 27th minute and it was a sweet one from the Hatchetmen.

Craig McClean's deep left wing cross was headed down by Jordan Owens and Heatley lashed the ball home from eight yards.

But two minutes later that lead was wiped out. Aaron Burns' shot from distance was deflected into the path of Waterworth and the striker converted at the back post from close range.

In the 37th minute the Crues were back in front. Whyte nicked the ball off Sean Ward and directed a low shot which keeper Jonny Tuffey got a hand to but couldn't stop the ball trickling over the line.

Opposite number Sean O'Neill spilled and then gathered Stephen Lowry's free-kick just before the end of an entertaining first half.

Waterworth slotted the ball into the net shortly after the restart only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations.

Regardless, the Blues were back in business in the 59th minute when Ivan Sproule's cross was knocked towards Carvill by Billy Joe Burns and the ball rebounded straight into the net.

In the 68th minute the Crues missed a golden chance to restore their lead when Timmy Adamson's unchallenged header from six yards sailed over the woodwork.

Thompson, the hat-trick hero for Linfield against Dundela last week, replaced Sproule and temperatures soared when a shoving match involving several players followed Chris Morrow's feisty challenge on Clarke that earned a booking.

Coates and Lowry were then cautioned for their contribution to the 73rd minute melee before substitute Josh Robinson's volley stung the hands of Tuffey on 84 minutes and, though both sides gave it everything in their pursuit of victory, there were to be no late heroes.

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