Belfast Telegraph

Angry Stephen Baxter demands a response from Crusaders after Bangor defeat

By David Mason

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter let rip at his boys after their County Antrim Shield defeat by Bangor on Tuesday night.

The dressing room door remained locked for 45 minutes after the final whistle as the Shore Road side attempted to come to terms with their latest disappointment.

It's the second time in a month the Belfast Telegraph Championship One leaders have dumped the Crues out of a knockout tournament - they also enjoyed a 4-2 League Cup quarter final victory - and Baxter, whose team face a Premiership showdown with Portadown at the weekend, didn't mince his words when he finally emerged from a heated dressing room.

"They guys in there know how I react to certain things," he moaned.

"What was said will stay in there, but it is for them to learn from.

"It's all about their development as footballers. I grew up at Linfield, where the blood had to pump through your veins, whether it was in a competitive match or a training session. That mentality has to be instilled into players.

"We didn't have enough of that against Bangor. This is a professional football club - they are playing at the highest level in our country. I need more from certain people and they know that.

"When you put seven days' effort into this job, I expect more. I'll be looking for more as the season progresses.

"That said, this group of players have been fabulous over a long, long time. They have driven this club into areas we never thought possible we could go to.

"They know how I work. They know that I need a change of attitude from them.

"Come Saturday, this team will be motivated and ready. Hopefully, they'll have started speaking to me again by that time."

Baxter admitted it was disappointing to exit two cup tournaments by the same opponents in the space of a month, but added: "Any defeat hurts. It's the same feeling whether it's Linfield or Bangor.

"We had enough chances to win three games but when you don't have fire in your belly, then you don't have anything.

"Bangor had an extra edge and a commitment level, they fought and scrapped for their lives.

"They are a well organised, well drilled, strong, physical team. They will cause problems for any side. They have shown over the two games we've played them that they are match for anyone. They are unbeaten at the top of their league. They are building for the future.

"We lost a couple of our key players before the game. Paul Heatley pulled up in the warm up having injured an ankle, while Colin Coates was out with an Achilles problem. Declan Caddell was also banned.

"That's what happens when you lose a few of your key players. We've lost this cup tie, but we'll regroup and prepare for another massive league game against Portadown on Saturday."

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