Belfast Telegraph

Burns is among best in the country, says Stephen Baxter

Coleraine 0-2 Crusaders

By Keith Thomas

Billy Joe Burns kept his cool when the heat was turned up at Coleraine, delivering double penalty pain.

Crusaders' dependable defender twice beat Bannsiders' debut keeper Chris Johns from the spot to ensure the league leaders stayed way out in front in their bid to retain the Gibson Cup.

As controversy engulfed referee Raymond Crangle over both decisions, Burns was calmness personified. His manager couldn't hide his admiration for the former Linfield right-back.

"He's right up there with the best players in the country," said Stephen Baxter. "He has been this season just as he was the year before.

"He was simply magnificent. He ran up and down the wing and put some great balls into the box as well as a couple of rasping shots when he could have sneaked his hat-trick.

"He's a great guy to work with and always wants to play. He never misses training and never wants to take a break. That sort of attitude pleases me and demonstrates the passion he has for the game and our club."

In stark contrast, Baxter's Coleraine counterpart Oran Kearney was incensed by the manner of his side's third successive defeat.

Defender Johnny Watt will miss this weekend's Tennents Irish Cup clash at Portadown following his red card for a tackle on Paul Heatley which TV pictures showed was clearly outside the penalty area.

Kearney said: "I can't believe the officials got it wrong. It was clear for all to see that the tackle was outside.

"The linesman said he made the call and that he was 100 per cent sure but the initial foul was about two yards outside!"

Baxter steered clear of the argument: "I really have no idea. I couldn't really see."

After consulting his assistant, referee Crangle pointed to the spot and Burns got the better of Johns.

However, the former Southampton stopper had been in super form before that as he frustrated Heatley and Jordan Owens.

Crusaders also capitalised on the second penalty award when Crangle adjudged substitute David Ogilby to have impeded striker Owens as they challenged for a high cross deep inside the box.

Despite the arguments over the penalties, Baxter did not lose focus on the performance of his players.

"We were well worth our win," he maintained. "We were the better team for most of the game.

"We had the lion's share and applied all the pressure, hitting the woodwork three times."

The only negative on a decent day out for the north Belfast side was an injury to midfielder Jordan Forsythe, who is likely to be out of action for a month after picking up a hamstring strain.

Coleraine demonstrated potential in the opening stages but relied on Johns' brilliance to keep them in the hunt.

Crues keeper Sean O'Neill pushed out striker Sammy Morrow's header following skipper Howard Beverland's assist.

Then winger Darren McCauley smashed a speculative shot against the top of the bar.

Northern Ireland U21 international Johns raced out to halt the progress of Heatley and later, when Owens directed a header towards goal, produced a save.

Despite an admirable attempt to deny Burns' spot-kick, Johns couldn't prevent him from opening Crusaders' account.

Owens saw a second-half header graze an upright before the Crues wrapped up the win.

Referee Crangle pointed to the spot when he saw Ogilby holding back Owens in the box as the pair competed for the ball. Burns stepped up to crash his penalty high into the net and ensure all three points for the Crues.

COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Beverland, Watt, Edgar, McCauley, Higgins, Harkin, Brown (McCafferty, 84 mins), Morrow (McGonigle, 67 mins), Lyons 6 (Ogilby, 44 mins). Unused subs: McLaughlin, Parkhill.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, McClean, Robinson, Snoddy, Owens, Heatley (O'Carroll, 85 mins), Caddell, Carvill (Clarke, 90 mins), Forsythe (Whyte, 65 mins). Unused subs: Magowan, Mitchell.

Man of match: Chris Johns

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)

Belfast Telegraph


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