Belfast Telegraph

Dallas will have to cope with being Crusaders' marked man

By Graham Luney

Stephen Baxter is hoping Stuart Dallas will not suffer from second season syndrome in the next league campaign.

Dallas was just a fresh faced raw talent when he joined Crusaders from Coagh United in the summer but now he’s recognised as the best young player in the country.

A red-hot favourite to pocket the Young Player of the Year gong, the winger who turned 20 on Tuesday has taken the Carling Premiership by storm.

A number of cross-channel clubs, including Blackburn Rovers and Rangers, have been monitoring Dallas’ progress and Baxter has no doubt he could make a career in the professional game.

However, unless another club puts a big cash offer on the table over the summer, the exciting youngster with an eye for goal will be terrorising Crusaders’ opponents again next season.

Baxter also spotted the potential of Martin Donnelly but when sides learned of the threat the left winger poses, they took steps to disrupt his influence.

There are now parallels with Dallas (pictured), as teams recognise the teenager’s strengths by putting two men on him, as Linfield did at Seaview.

“Next season will be incredibly difficult for Stuart because teams are aware of the threat he poses,” admitted Baxter. “Linfield doubled up on him but that’s great respect from a team to do that and you have to cope with it, but he just wants to go out and play.

“He plays with a great freedom and excitement and he’ll have to take things in his stride and learn how to cope with people double marking him.

“He’s got incredible pace which is a huge requirement for the game and he will adapt.”

Portadown will aim to avenge their JJB Sports Irish Cup semi-final defeat when they arrive at Seaview tomorrow but the Crues know that one more win from their three remaining league outings will secure runner-up spot in the Premiership — the last time they finished in the top two was their title triumph in 1997.

l Crusaders fans will occupy the North Stand in the JJB Sports Irish Cup final and fans can now purchase tickets (£15 adults; £8 concession — under-16/over 65) from the club shop, social club and the following outlets: Times Bar York Road (11.30am-11pm daily), C&D Newsagents Shore Road daily (7am-8pm), D Boyles Abbots Cross Wed-Sat (9am-5pm), Mortgage Advice Shop 3 Carnmoney Road Glengormley Wed-Fri (9am-5pm) and Crues Cuts Shore Road Wed-Fri (9am-4.30pm, Sat 9am-11am).

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