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Crusaders will not be hitting panic button, says McClean

By Graham Luney

You don't deserve to be champions if you haven't got the strength of character to get back on your feet after being knocked down.

Crusaders didn't quite make it to the end of the year as an unbeaten force at Seaview in the Danske Bank Premiership and the 2-1 loss to Linfield will hurt.

Where do Crusaders go from here? To Ards tonight is the quick answer and there is little time to lick wounds. Even Crusaders at Seaview can't win all the time and they will learn the lessons from the defeat and should come out fighting.

Left-back Craig McClean has no doubt the character in the Crues dressing room will now shine through at a crucial moment.

"There's no panic here," he said. "We've lost one game of football and it's no big deal as far as I'm concerned. Yes, it would have been nice to go 10 points clear, but to be four clear at the start of January is a nice position to be in.

"It's fine lines in a game like that and had Michael Carvill's header which hit the crossbar gone in then it might have been a different outcome. We've another game against Ards to get this out of our system and we will dust ourselves down and get back to doing the right things.

"Every team loses a football match and this was only our second loss, the same as Linfield. In the past we have responded to defeats by going on big winning runs and we are capable of that. The Blues were very motivated to beat us and that is understandable but they would still like to be in our position."

Perhaps the absence of experienced skipper Colin Coates was crucial against Linfield as hesitant defending allowed Aaron Burns and then Andy Waterworth to fire the visitors back into the title race.

But while the Crues couldn't produce end of year fireworks, credit must go to the Blues for smothering the hosts with a passionate and aggressive performance.

Rumours of Linfield's demise have been grossly exaggerated but the champions will probably feel the match would have taken a different course if Carvill had buried that early header.

McClean added: "We didn't click as well as we have been doing but it's gone now and we must return to playing the type of play that has put us on top of the table."

Crues boss Stephen Baxter will expect his players to dust themselves down and hit the accelerator pedal again.

Baxter said: "We went on a great run last season after losing to Linfield. Nothing is handed out to you, this was a great advertisement for our game with two teams really going for it.

"We don't want a flat performance after this defeat - the big test is how we respond to it."

Meanwhile, Crusaders have confirmed they will ban the fan who spat at Linfield boss David Healy during Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership clash at Seaview.

The Crues stated yesterday: "With regards to the alleged spitting incident at the Crusaders v Linfield match on Saturday, Crusaders Football Club wish to express their disgust that such a disgusting act could happen at Seaview.

"The club are pursuing a definite line of enquiry into identifying the perpetrator and will ban the individual from future games at Seaview for life and if possible all grounds in Northern Ireland. 

"Crusaders Football Club would like to make it very clear that they find such disgusting behaviour totally wrong.

"It is a low act to do such a despicable thing and there is no place in society for such action. Anyone with information about the incident can contact the club anonymously."

McClean added: "I know people can get emotional watching games but there is no place at all for that behaviour.

"It's just a game of football and that behaviour is totally unnecessary.

"It's unacceptable and overstepping the mark. The club will deal with it."

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