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Crues' strength of character is fantastic, says Baxter

By Graham Luney

Stephen Baxter has described the Crusaders dressing room as "exciting" as his side lead the way as they strive to retain their Danske Bank Premiership crown.

The defending champions leapfrogged Linfield at the top of the table last Saturday following a tight 1-0 win over Warrenpoint Town, with a slightly better goal difference putting them in first place.

Baxter shuffled his pack for the midweek JBE League Cup clash with Institute, as the Championship side pulled off a shock by winning 4-3 at Seaview.

The Crues will be back to full strength when they make the trip to Ballinamallard United today, including Gavin Whyte, who made his Northern Ireland Under-21 debut in midweek.

And Baxter firmly believes that he has the strength of character in his squad to cope with the demands of being champions and everything that comes with it.

"I think the dressing room is exciting," said Baxter.

"I congratulated the players on their togetherness and the fun aspect of what we are doing.

"They look after each other and want to do well - that's the sign of a good dressing room."

The Crues weren't at their scintillating best against Warrenpoint on Saturday, but they did enough to secure a slender victory.

Portadown, meanwhile, will attempt to end a dismal run in front of goal against Cliftonville when they travel to Solitude today.

Ronnie McFall's team haven't managed to find the net in any of their last seven meetings with the north-Belfast Reds.

Cliftonville are unbeaten in six games since Tommy Breslin's shock departure last month, which is a big part of the reason why caretaker boss Gerard Lyttle was handed the job on a permanent basis after Wednesday night's League Cup win over Dungannon Swifts.

The Swifts have only picked up four points from their last seven games, while in contrast today's opponents Coleraine have only dropped four points in the same number of games.

They are also unbeaten in the last four league games, which is why they are currently sitting fourth in the table, just four points behind leaders Crusaders and Linfield.

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