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We'll bounce back from hurt, insists Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter

By Graham Luney

Defiant Stephen Baxter is confident that his Crusaders side will regroup quickly and show their title winning credentials at Solitude on Saturday.

The Crues travel to face Cliftonville still smarting from a 1-0 loss to Portadown which allowed Linfield to close the gap at the top to six points.

Tim Mouncey's 85th minute header keeps the title race alive with only four games left to play but the Crues, who boast a vastly superior goal difference, are still in a commanding position and must show character to finish the job.

"It was a terrible game on the worst pitch I have seen in 25 years of Irish League football," said Baxter.

"It's not sour grapes, but it's very tight at this stage of the season. Everyone is uptight and under pressure and we have to get ready for big games of football.

"Games against Cliftonville are always tough but everyone is facing tough games. We will dust ourselves down and get ready to go again.

"We are still in a great position and we just have to push on and put the foot to the board in a derby.

"The players will hurt a bit but we have to hit back and remember the incredible run we went on. We won't lose sleep over this. Our opponents have lost considerable ground and now we have lost one game. It's fine margins but we will be ready to play on Saturday.

"We can't think too much about prizes. We are just footballers and pressure comes from not having any food on the table or having no money. This should be fun and sometimes we have to deal with different emotions and apply ourselves again."

Ports boss Ronnie McFall hailed an outstanding performance from his men which boosts their European hopes, but he still feels the Crues have done enough to finish league champions.

"I think it's all over," said McFall. "They are the champions elect and I still feel they will win it. They are a very strong side and this is just one setback."

The Crues will have to complete their league fixtures without midfielder Barry Molloy, who aggravated his ankle injury, but they will have newly married winger Paul Heatley available for the north Belfast derby.

Belfast Telegraph


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