Belfast Telegraph

Defiant Crusaders boss Baxter keeping the faith

Stephen Baxter has insisted that his Crusaders team are not suffering from a Big Two hangover.

The Crues visit Glentoran tomorrow and an away win would add weight to the argument that the Shore Road men are genuine title contenders this season.

However, the north-Belfast side have endured Big Two woe in recent weeks with the Glens inflicting a semi-final defeat in the County Antrim Shield and Linfield handing their cross-city rivals a footballing lesson in an 8-1 thrashing. But the Hatchetmen can be inspired by their 1-0 league win over the Glens at Seaview when former Oval favourite Michael Halliday netted the only goal of the game.

The heavy defeat at Linfield dented confidence but Baxter feels his players have learned from the horror show.

“The hangover after the Linfield game ended on the Tuesday morning after the game,” said Baxter. “You don’t play for five years the way these young lads play and then suddenly become a bad team overnight. I watched some English teams and foreign teams getting scalped in the last few days — you take it on the chin and get on with it.

“That’s how football is and it’s the character that it builds which is what you look for.

“Our performance against Glentoran and Coleraine showed this is a quality team.”

The Crues will be without goalkeeper Niall Murphy and David Bell who were both sent off in the 2-0 win at home to Coleraine but first choice shot-stopper Chris Keenan should return after recovering from a dislocated finger.

“The boys are working hard to gather up the points and stay at the right end of the table — we all want to stay in the top six,” added Baxter. “This is a very tight league and that’s what makes it interesting. Against Coleraine, we were first class.”

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