Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Crues new boy out to win admirers

Big impact: Stephen Cockcroft netted on his competitive debut for Crusaders at Seaview in the Europa League

Stephen Cockcroft is young man determined to make a name for himself in the Irish League.

On Thursday night there were a few quizzical looks in the press box when the 20-year-old winger was listed on the Crusaders teamsheet for their clash with Ekranas, but Stephen Baxter's new signing proved his worth by scoring the opening goal in a remarkable 3-1 victory.

This time last year Cockcroft had just signed for Harland & Wolff Welders after he realised he was unlikely to see much first team action at Ards.

A string of good performances at Tillysburn earned the Bangor youngster a move to Seaview.

A delighted Cockcroft said: "I'm over the moon.

"I actually can't put into words how happy I am.

"To go from leaving Ards after not really getting a crack to scoring in Europe in the space of a year is incredible.

"I've completely committed myself over the summer. I've not been messing around, I've been training hard and eating the right things, and I felt the benefit of it against Ekranas.

"Stephen Baxter has shown a lot of faith in me, first by signing and then by playing me.

"I wanted to repay his faith on the pitch by working as hard as I could."

Cockcroft's goal might have been important, but it was far from beautiful.

The man who started his career at Linfield poked a trundling Declan Caddell shot home from less than a yard to the delight of the Crues support.

Cockcroft explained: "For the goal, I just gambled.

"If you don't buy a ticket you can't win the raffle. I'm not sure if it was going in or not.

"I thought there might be someone behind me so I just made sure.

"I was panicking because I thought I might be in an offside position.

"The first thing I did when it hit the net was look towards the linesman, but thankfully he kept his flag down.

"Thank goodness he did, or I would have been in big trouble."

Cockcroft is confident that Crusaders can finish the job in Lithuania next week, despite conceding a late away goal.

"I can't wait," he added.

"I think we've got a big chance of getting through to the next round.

"Obviously it was disappointing to let in the away goal at the end of the game, but I don't think it will hurt us too badly.

"We will get together on Monday night and prepare for the trip.

"Hopefully I'll be in team for the second leg, but if I'm not I will be ready to come off the bench and give it everything I've got.

"This is a big opportunity for me and I don't want to let it slip."

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