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County Antrim Shield final: Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter's pride in defeat following 'joke' decision to send Heatley off

By Graham Luney

Stephen Baxter blasted the decision to send off Paul Heatley in last night's County Antrim Shield final loss to Linfield.

The Crues winger was shown a straight red card in the 31st minute for an elbow on Mark Stafford but boss Baxter dismissed the decision from referee Mervyn Smyth as "embarrassing" and "a joke".

"The contact was at waist level with a failing hand which you do in a challenge like that," he said.

"He's four foot two, weighing six stone and he's up against Mark Stafford who went down as if he was dead. It was absolutely embarrassing. Stafford and Jimmy Callacher are warriors who compete with the likes of Jordan Owens and I'm a big fan of both of them.

"There wasn't one player who appealed for it. A flailing hand from a four foot two wimp, come on.

"There were tackles from every single player. We've had a sending off which is an embarrassment to our local game.

"Sometimes I think there is a media circus around some of our players, particularly Paul Heatley. I see horror tackles from players of other clubs and nothing happens."

Baxter was proud of his 10 men for producing a battling performance but their sloppy start was their downfall.

He added: "Linfield won the game in the first 12 minutes, they put balls into the box which we couldn't defend. It was schoolboy defending as we gifted them two goals in a cup final.

"For 20 minutes pre-half-time we had them rocking and got a goal and from half time to 80 minutes we had them rocking. Someone named Linfield's centre half (Jimmy Callacher) as man of the match so that tells you the pressure we were applying.

"I didn't believe it was a penalty kick either but it's hard to come back in a final from 2-0 down so early and then a man down, it's a bigger mountain to climb but our performance was superb and I'm proud of my players. We were superb for most of the game with 10 men."

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