Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders boss Baxter taking nothing for granted while Cushley backs young guns to fire

By Graham Luney and David Mason

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter couldn't resist a little chuckle when it was put to him that there was now daylight between his side and Linfield in the title race.

The Crues go into tomorrow's heavyweight showdown at Windsor Park with the cushion of a four-point lead over David Healy's side and that means there is more pressure on the hosts to win the game.

Baxter, however, knows such a slender lead can be wiped away very quickly and he's even reluctant to look at the Danske Bank Premiership table until February.

When asked about the 'daylight' between the top two, the Crues boss said: "I think the sun has just risen, it's dawn and it's still pretty much black.

"A glimmer of light has appeared, that's four points but there is really nothing separating the teams in the top half.

"There will be lots of twists and turns ahead and we must concentrate on every challenge that comes our way. Ballymena United beat us in the league and then lost heavily the following week, that tells you where the league is. Glenavon would have liked to have started better but then won incredibly well against Ballymena.

"People expected Carrick to get swept aside by ourselves. They narrowly lost against Cliftonville and drew with Glenavon. Those are big teams and there's top games of football everywhere.

"Coleraine and Linfield are playing well and I knew Glentoran would get better. There are far too many strong teams in there to start talking about getting ahead of anyone.

"I'll enjoy having a four-point lead but it means very little. Three games later we could be behind by two so you take nothing for granted.

"Windsor Park is always a tough place to go and we lost there last season. We will expect a tough game there but it's still early days. When it gets to February I'll start looking at points totals."

Meanwhile, Crues hotshot David Cushley says every player will now be looking over their shoulder following the astonishing performance from the 'babes' in the County Antrim Shield quarter-final victory over Glentoran.

"What a night that was for the young boys," beamed 27-year-old Cushley. "It just shows that no one is safe in terms of a first-team shirt at this club.

"It's a great place to be at the minute. Every one of the lads in the dressing room has a smile from ear to ear. The boss made a load of changes, but not one of them put their foot wrong. They were sensational - they all worked their socks off.

"It just shows the talent we have at this club. People may have looked at the teamsheet and thought it would be a cake walk for Glentoran. They wouldn't have seen a performance like that coming. But these boys, who were part of the Youth Cup winning side, stepped up to the plate - they raised a few eyebrows.

"Stephen had confidence in the young lads. He was proved right. He said there was a big week up ahead and he needed to rely on all the players."

Belfast Telegraph


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