Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Baxter adamant that Crusaders will see season out on a winning note

By Alex Mills

Stephen Baxter insists his boys will not be feeling sorry for themselves when they perform in front of home fans for the final time this season.

The current Danske Bank Premiership champions roll out the welcome mat for Glenavon at Seaview tomorrow - on a day their title could well switch hands a few miles up the road.

Having led the pack from practically day one, the Shore Road team - beaten by Ballymena United last weekend - were eventually reeled in by a battling Linfield, who now have the chance to lift the Gibson Cup for the first time in five years when they visit Cliftonville.

Read more: Linfield's Jamie Mulgrew in mood for a title party

They will travel across town in the knowledge that a draw will be good enough to get them over the line. There is little doubt David Healy's lads will want to do it with a bit of style, which means the champagne could possibly be replaced by flat beer at Seaview, but Baxter is adamant his team will battle to the finish.

"We've had a few good training sessions, there were no repercussions," he said. "We lost a game of football. There were no inquests. The only complaint I had (last week) and, it was the same for both teams, was the state of the pitch. We knew it would be difficult. I knew it could possibly be a banana skin for us.

"We didn't deserve anything from the game. They were a very disappointed group. It's a long campaign and we got ourselves into a position to retain the title, but we just didn't deliver at Ballymena. We've dusted ourselves down and we've prepared very professionally, as we always do, for our final game of the campaign against Glenavon. It's our last home game of the season. We'll be giving it our best. Anything can happen over 90 minutes of football. We must make sure we get three points, first and foremost. The match at Solitude will look after itself. Tommy Breslin is back, albeit on a temporary basis, so that will add a bit of spice to the game."

Baxter believes his team now owe the Crues fans a performance on the final day of a season that promised so much, but has delivered so little - so far!

"We have been out in front from the start of the season, until nearly the end," he adds. "Now the pressure turns on Linfield to see if they can deliver the title. We have to look after our own performance - and that's what we'll be doing. I'm one of these people that fight to the death. But once the thing is done and dusted, you say well done to whoever wins it. If it's Linfield, we'll congratulate them, and if we turn it around, then we'll enjoy it."

Baxter made it his business not to become carried away when his boys led the table by nine points - when most pundits already had them crowned champions.

"I knew it was only three games of football and I knew there were still around 30 points to play for, so I knew there was a long, long way to go," he added.

"I was aware of the possibility of things changing because in this league one team is capable of beating the other on any given day. So there was no way I was going to get carried away.

"But we can't afford to dwell on the past."

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