Belfast Telegraph

Weekend loss to Blues had no impact, insists Crues boss

By Keith Bailie

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter dismissed the notion that his side's remarkable comeback win over Ards was a response to the disappointment of losing to Linfield on Saturday.

At the weekend, the Blues reduced the champions' lead at top to four points with a 2-1 win at Seaview - and, after 17 minutes on Tuesday night, it looked like Crusaders' title challenge was rocking, with Ards 2-0 up thanks to goals from Carl McComb and Craig McMillen, only for the visitors to fight back for a 4-2 win.

With Linfield losing 1-0 to Coleraine at Windsor Park, the Crues restored their seven-point lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership, but Baxter explained: "I didn't feel we needed to respond to the Linfield result.

"I don't feel we have the need to respond to anything.

"Our win over Cliftonville on Boxing Day was one of the best performances of the season and the Linfield game was nip and tuck.

"Sometimes you lose games of football.

"I certainly didn't feel like we needed to make a statement or drastically change what we have been doing because of one result.

"In a sense, you always have to respond to your last match, whether you win, lose or draw. You've always got to learn and adapt to each game.

"Coming into the Ards match, I wasn't thinking about Linfield, I was thinking about Ards, because I knew they had played very well against Ballymena United on Saturday.

"Ards have made Bangor a difficult place to go now and it was always going to be a big ask.

"But when we get the ball in the right areas and create chances, we're hard to beat."

Reflecting on the 4-2 win that saw Paul Heatley score a brace in addition to Declan Caddell's header and an Emmet Friars own goal, Baxter added: "We started like a house on fire, hitting the post twice before Ards scored.

"Then you find yourself 2-0 down and you find yourself scratching your head and asking 'what's going on here?'

"But we made some necessary changes at 2-0 and stepped our game up, which resulted in us grabbing a goal before half-time.

"Then in the second half, it was one-way traffic."

The Crues boss - whose side host Ards on Tennent's Irish Cup fifth round duty on Saturday - concluded: "We were magnificent and thoroughly deserved our win."

Belfast Telegraph


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