Belfast Telegraph

No need for Crusaders to alter style: Baxter

By Graham Luney

Stephen Baxter says he’s happy for his men to keep being the Carling Premiership’s “entertainers”.

The Crues have been scoring goals for fun this season — but they have also left the door open at the back despite boasting the formidable centre-back partnership of Colin Coates and David Magowan.

If the weather allows today’s north-Belfast derby to kick-off at Solitude, supporters are in for a festive treat.

Even neutrals who are missing their football fix should head to Cliftonville’s home for an incident packed, fiercely contested affair.

Both sides have made tremendous strides in recent seasons and their investment in artificial surfaces demonstrates sound thinking in the boardroom.

The Crues have netted 42 times this season — only Linfield have scored more (45) — but they have also allowed 38 goals to fly in at the other end.

Baxter, who grew tired of watching poor encounters at this summer’s World Cup, will tell his men to keep the fans on the edge of their seats.

“The pitches we are now playing on lend themselves to good passing football and we can get the ball down and score goals,” he said.

“The stats indicate that we have conceded a lot of goals at home and the heavy defeat to Linfield (8-1) blotted our copybook, but I want us to play this brand of attacking football.

“I suppose we could be like the Newcastle United of old; teams that score four but sometimes concede the same number. The only thing that matters is that you win the game but I admit that sometimes it’s exciting, edge of the seat stuff and not good for your nerves.

“I want us to play adventurous football. I was fed up watching dull games in the World Cup and elsewhere. We want to play an open brand of football and I’m sure the fans want to see that.”

Cliftonville officials will study the Solitude surface this morning before making a final decision on whether the game goes ahead.

If it does, the supporters who brave the sub-zero temperatures are in for a Christmas cracker.

Referee Adrian McCourt issued six red cards in last year’s showpiece battle but this time both sets of players are determined to make sure the football hits the headlines.

“There is always a great atmosphere at these matches and it’s set up to be another cracking game,” added Baxter. “Everyone looks forward to the Boxing Day clash and we could be the only show in the town, just like last year. I’m looking forward to it and the players are as well because they just want to play football and no-one wants to sit around and train all the time.

“It’s a challenge to keep the boys motivated and they need to know that the game is on, an occasion that no-one wants to miss. The more the merrier in terms of people coming out to see the game.”

Cliftonville won the first derby of the season 3-1 at Seaview back in August so revenge will be on the menu alongside the turkey leftovers.

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