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Crusaders were shown disrespect: Andy Mitchell

By David Mason

Crusaders midfielder Andy Mitchell has hit out at KF Skenderbeu, labelling them "a joke".

Although the Albanian side progressed to the Champions League third round qualifying stage after a 6-4 aggregate win - despite losing 3-2 at Seaview on Tuesday - they left the pitch to a chorus of boos and jeers after 90 minutes of play-acting.

Stephen Baxter's boys claimed a famous victory courtesy of goals from Stephen O'Flynn, Matthew Snoddy and Mitchell, but a couple of defensive lapses gifted the Albanians a passage to the next round.

"Their antics were totally over the top, but that's what you get from foreign teams," said Mitchell, snapped up over the summer from Annan Athletic. "We'll learn from it. In saying that, you wouldn't get away with that in the Irish League. You'd be told to get up and get on with it. Perhaps we are too honest at times.

"It was ridiculous. They simply looked for fouls every time they went near the ball, diving all over the place. It was a joke.

"They know how to play the game in terms of play-acting.

"I think they showed us a bit of disrespect towards the end. They began messing about with the ball in their own box.

"So they got what they deserved when we scored twice in injury-time. I was thrilled with my first goal for the club. I had a few chances earlier, but they ended up on the Shore Road, so it was nice to see one hit the net. It was a proud moment.

"Every one of our squad should be proud of themselves. I don't think we could have done any more. Our attitude and application were first class."

Mitchell believes the Crues will benefit from their European adventure and are now primed to defend their Danske Bank Premiership title.

He added: "Our aim is to take that form and experience into the league and cups. We were never going to win the Champions League, so these competitive games have been beneficial.

"The gaffer told us that we have set the bar and we must not drop below it. We've got a good squad, especially when you consider Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte were missing. So we are ready for the challenge ahead."

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