Euro-chasing Glens sunk by Baxter's boys
Stephen Baxter may have put his faith in Crusaders' youth in the final game of his second consecutive Premiership winning season, but it did not stop him from heaping praise on those players who earned the Seaview side the title.
Ross Holden's composed finish in the 50th minute was the only real mark of quality in Saturday's win over Glentoran at The Oval, a game in which Baxter was keen to see what his fringe players could bring to the table, while resting his top performers.
He said: "Today was good in as much as it gave us an opportunity to look at some players who we watch in training and make up our squad but don't get a lot of games - Richard Vauls, Graeme McKibbin, people like that, young Ross Holden coming in today who is going to be a bright star in the future - so it gave me a chance to look at those guys in a bigger environment."
Glentoran created the better chances in the game, but failed to break through where the champions did, which frustrated boss Alan Kernaghan.
"It sums up our season until now," he said. "We've been an inch away from winning games and we make one mistake and its cost us. You can see the difference in strength in what Crusaders were able to do with their team today, leaving six or seven out and the ones that came in did a decent job."
The Glens will now travel to Coleraine for a Europa League play-off semi-final on Friday night, with the victors progressing to face Cliftonville at Solitude next Tuesday.
Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney, whose charges thumped the out-of-sorts Reds 3-0 on Saturday, is looking forward to the occasion.
"We're bubbling up nicely now after a spell where results didn't fall for us," he said.
"The players have a real appetite for this and they demonstrated that against Cliftonville. They can't wait for Friday. With home advantage we have nothing to fear and everything to gain."
Brad Lyons opened the scoring and two Neil McCafferty penalties, either side of visiting defender Caoimhin Bonner's red card, secured the points for Coleraine, who last appeared in Europa League action back in 2003 when Marty Quinn steered his side to a 2-1 home win over Portuguese outfit UD Leiria before exiting the competition in the away leg.