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Baxter hails battling Crues after suffering late agony

Crusaders 1 Livingston 2

By David Mason

Stephen Baxter saluted his players after this Irn-Bru Challenge Cup fourth round thriller at Seaview. The Irish League champions were dumped out by a cruel 94th minute winner from Scott Pittman, who earned the Scottish League One side a slot in the quarter-final draw.

Substitute Josh Mullin shot the visitors into the lead late in the second half, but big Jordan Owen conjured up a majestic equaliser with only two minutes left.

Pittman, however, broke the hearts of the home fans by plundering the winner deep in to injury time.

"We scored two goals in added time to defeat Cliftonville at the weekend, now the boot is on the other foot," quipped Baxter.

"We looked to have done enough to force extra-time, but we were punished right at the finish. We were up against full time opponents and there wasn't an awful lot that separated the teams. When I see my players giving their all, win, lose or draw it makes me happy."

It took Crusaders 28 minutes to create the first opening. Billy Joe Burns took off on a dazzling 25 yard solo dash before finding Andy Mitchell, who tried his luck from distance, but goalkeeper Gary Maley got down to paw the ball to safety.

David Cushley then bent in an audacious corner kick that had Maley flying across his goal to punch clear.

Baxter's boys stormed from the traps after the break with substitute Jordan Forsythe lashing inches past the post. Maley then produced a wonder save to keep out Michael Gault that was hurtling into the top corner.

After soaking up the pressure, Mullin stunned the home supporters with the opener on 78 minutes. He was only on the pitch 60 seconds when he roared forward to ram home a Danny Mullen cross.

But big Owens looked to have forced extra time when, after picking up a Declan Caddell pass, curled home a beauty with only two minutes remaining.

But it was the Scots who had the final say when Liam Buchanan cut the ball back for Pittman, who drilled into the bottom corner.

Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Beverland (Gault 46), Coates, Lowry (Forsythe 46), Mitchell, Carvill, Cushley (Heatley 65), Caddell, Owens, Clarke.

Livingston: Maley, Miller, Longridge (Mullin 75), Lithgow, Halkett, Knox (Watt 80), Byrne (Cadden 60), Pittman, Buchanan, Crighton, Mullen.

Man of the Match: Michael Carvill

Referee: David Morgan (Wales).

Match rating: 8/10

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