Crusaders raring to go again
Stephen Baxter is hoping his players will arrive at Solitude tomorrow with recharged batteries.
The Crues were swatted 4-0 by Linfield last Saturday but that game came on the back of victories at Portadown and Glentoran — three massive games within seven days.
Baxter’s players could hardly get the shirts off their backs at the Oval after their superb win over the league champions but if the manager was offered six points out of a possible nine from that demanding week he would have possibly settled for that.
When Linfield turned up with the bit between their teeth at Seaview, Crusaders didn’t have the gas to keep up with them.
But the Hatchetmen have been able to enjoy some rest this week while the Reds entertained Celtic on Tuesday night.
Crusaders striker Mark Dickson is back in training after his knee injury and he may make the bench for the derby clash.
“We are asking part-time players to get through a lot of games and there have been a lot of tired legs out there,” said Baxter.
“When the boys came off after the Glentoran game the water was running out of their shirts, such was their effort and endeavour.
“Linfield outsmothered us and out-worked us — they did what we did to Glentoran. The energy levels and zip about us just wasn’t there against Linfield but it is important to remember where we are and what we have achieved.
“We are very happy where we are as a team and we are fighting where we want to fight. After the amount of games we have played, we are satisfied with where we are at.
“But in this league you end up fighting every week for your three points. Cliftonville were brilliant at Seaview when they beat us and we know they are capable of reproducing that top quality display.
“Last weekend we only lost three points in one round of games and you have to move onto the next challenge.”
Such was Linfield’s dominance at Seaview, that Crues’ star man David Rainey was anonymous on the Shore Road.
The former Glentoran hitman is leading the goalscoring charts with 14 strikes but Baxter is not concerned with the theory that his side will struggle when Rainey is not on target.
“I don’t sit down and think about it in that context,” added Baxter. “We are working with 18 players and you are always going to pick up injuries.
“While David Rainey is a top predator — and we are delighted to have him — we have been missing Mark Dickson for the last four or five weeks. Hopefully, he will get over this knee problem as we could do with having him back.”