Stephen Baxter full of praise for resilient Crusaders
Warrenpoint 1 - Crusaders 1
Despite remaining seven points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership after a last-gasp draw at Warrenpoint on Saturday, Crusaders would rather be fighting tooth and nail to retain their title.
That's according to Crues boss Stephen Baxter, who feels the current cushion over Linfield means that there is a higher risk of taking their eyes off the prize.
Baxter was speaking after his side had to rely on a late Diarmuid O'Carroll penalty to earn a share of the spoils at Milltown.
It looked as if the Crues would come away with nothing after Mark Hughes' 72nd minute strike. Josh Robinson was then shown a straight red for taking down John McGuigan, who was en route to potentially scoring what would have been an ultimately decisive goal for Barry Gray's side.
However, a needless challenge at the other end by Liam Bagnall on Paul Heatley two minutes into injury time saw referee Evan Boyce point to the spot and sub O'Carroll despatched the penalty.
While admitting it was one of Crusaders' poorer performances, Baxter had praise for his side's never-say-die attitude.
"We were 2-0 down to Glentoran and won 4-2, 1-0 down to Glenavon and drew 1-1, we were down to nine men and got a point against Coleraine with the last kick of the ball, so it says something about the character of the team," Baxter said.
"The cushion does us no favours because it can cause you to play conservatively. We need to express ourselves. I would rather us go out and express ourselves and play and that's what we'll do."
Asked about the sending off, Baxter admitted his side had luck on their side. He added: "They could have gone and made it 2-0 and the game was over. But they didn't, we went and scored a penalty. We've dodged a bullet here with Cliftonville losing and Linfield drawing so it feels like a little bit of a momentum boost.
"Warrenpoint have battled incredibly hard. They're fighting to be in this division and fair play. They came from a dead man's position to win games and put themselves back in it. That was as hard a game as we've had."
WARRENPOINT: Parr, Clarke, McVeigh, McGuigan, McDonald, Bagnall, M Hughes, Moan, S Murray (McMurray, 77 mins), Dane, M Murray (Mulvenna, 90 mins). Unused subs: S Hughes, Boyle, Donnelly
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Mitchell (Clarke, 82 mins), Coates, Caddell, Owens, Forsythe, Heatley, Snoddy (Whyte, 69 mins), Carvill (O'Carroll, 82 mins), Robinson, McClean. Unused subs: Magowan, McKibben
Man of the match: Liam Bagnall
Match rating: 5/10
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)