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Baxter's wounded warriors ready to return

Crusaders 2 PSNI 0

By Graham Luney

As far as Crusaders are concerned it's job done in the Irish Cup and now time to win the County Antrim Shield for the first time since 2010.

Linfield were the opponents in that decider at Windsor Park and the old foes are reunited at the Ballymena Showgrounds tomorrow night.

The good news for Crues boss Stephen Baxter is some of his wounded warriors are fit to play with Colin Coates, Jordan Owens and Gavin Whyte raring to go.

Whyte and Owens sat out the 2-0 Irish Cup win over PSNI while skipper Coates came off the bench to complete his comeback from an ankle ligament injury in November.

"We rested a few boys but Gavin and Jordan are expected to be fit to face Linfield," said Baxter. "Colin has been on the comeback trail for a few weeks and been loosening up, so we will see how his fitness is. It's good to get them all coming back and Rodney Brown will be training again shortly. We need a few options going into the business end of the season."

The Crues had to work hard to smash PSNI's resolve at Seaview with superb strikes from David Cushley (65) and Jordan Forsythe (87) booking a place on the last eight and a blockbuster battle with Linfield. "It was one of those games where you have to find the opening and after knocking on the door we finally got there," added Baxter.

"It was their cup final but our possession was about 80% and now we'll look forward to the Linfield game which is another big one with both teams on a fantastic run."

PSNI boss Ian Campbell took great encouragement from the performance of his Championship battlers who finished with 10 men after keeper Jordan Williamson's late dismissal for chopping down Paul Heatley.

"When you use them as a benchmark it shows how much we have progressed in the last few years," said Campbell.

"We certainly gave them a scare.

"Sean O'Neill made excellent saves and it was just a close game with them shading it. They fielded strong teams against us in the Shield semi-final and here again because they knew how strong we are."

CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Keane, McClean (Coates, 86 mins), Lowry, Clarke, Cushley (Snoddy, 78 mins) Carvill, Heatley, Suarez (Forsythe, 72 mins). Unused subs: Mitchell, Dougherty.

PSNI: Williamson, McCullagh, McCrory, McDermott, A Wright, J Wright (McDowell, 73 mins), McWilliams, Berry (Courtney, 80 mins), Adamczyk, Moody, Anderson (Roohi, 61 mins). Unused subs: Kirk, Harrison.

Referee: Steven Taylor (Belfast)

Man of the match: Sean O'Neill

Match rating: 7/10

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