Belfast Telegraph

New boy Hazley excites Crusaders

Crusaders fans were given a first glimpse of new signing Matt Hazley last weekend but manager Stephen Baxter knows they haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Banbridge man Hazley made a promising debut against Cliftonville at Seaview, looking a threat going forward and also helping out his defence when the Reds were on the front foot.

But the 23-year-old is still building up his match fitness and his emergence on the left-wing is timely given Ciaran Gargan’s arrival in the treatment room.

Gargan, who moved from Donegal Celtic in July, is out of action because of a torn hamstring.

Former Newry City winger Hazley will be asked to provide the ammunition for the Crues’ impressive array of strikers in Jordan Owens, Timmy Adamson, Michael Halliday and David Rainey.

His work on the left side of midfield also allowed Stuart Dallas to wreak havoc on the right wing against Cliftonville.

The former Stoke City player has agreed a one-year deal with the Crues and the fans are hoping he can continue to thrive in his new environment.

“He gave us a good 45 minutes against Cliftonville but he wasn’t fit,” said Baxter.

“He had a hamstring injury before he came to us and he trained for 10 days but he’s going to be a quality footballer.

“He just needs to get his match fitness for us but he did a great job against Cliftonville.

“We are short on the left side of midfield with Ciaran out so we felt it was the right thing to do to put him in and he gave us a great shift for 55 minutes.

“It’s the start of an exciting new chapter in his career.”

Crues skipper Colin Coates is also excited by Hazley’s arrival at Seaview.

“He did really well for us,” said the skipper. “I thought he did a great job and hopefully he can get better and better.”

Baxter’s men have another tough hurdle to overcome tomorrow with high-flying Portadown arriving at Seaview.

Ports boss Ronnie McFall isn’t the biggest fan of the 4G surface but his players should be brimming with confidence on the Shore Road.

The mid-Ulster men are level on points with the Blues at the top after eight matches.

Baxter will want his players to repeat their first half performance against Cliftonville tomorrow, rather than the second half showing when they let a two-goal lead slip.

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