Belfast Telegraph

Hot Rod lets rip after Bannsiders take eye off the ball

Rodney McAree
Rodney McAree

By Billy Weir

While Warrenpoint Town, whether through numerical necessity or momentum methodology, didn't tinker with their line-up last Saturday, it wasn't the case for the protagonists in the second Irish Cup semi-final.

Both Coleraine and Crusaders made a number of key changes to personnel with one eye on what could be a season-defining clash at the Oval - and with mixed results.

Crusaders battled back from two goals down to earn a share of the spoils with Ards, but the Bannsiders were simply awful when they lost to Institute at the Brandywell - a game that mathematically secured Stute's safety in the Danske Bank Premiership.

That is a fabulous achievement for all concerned given the loss of their ground, manager, captain and top scorer in recent times.

Stephen Baxter held his hands up afterwards and admitted that, with Linfield galloping off into the title distance, his decision was a prescient one.

"We have a number of knocks and a few players that are one yellow card away from suspension, so it made perfect sense to protect those players," said the Crues chief.

Rodney McAree also rung the changes, but if he was opening the door to a few to grab a place in the semi-final line-up, it was quickly slammed shut and he wasn't behind it in letting them know.

"From my point of view, I feel as if we've all cheated the club," he fumed.

"We've all cheated the supporters and we've put in a level of performance which is unacceptable.

"I think players need to look after now instead of looking forward to next week, because next week might not happen for some of them."

Strong words, and there could be a hint of mind games about them, but the proof will come on Saturday when they go toe to toe in what should be a cracker.

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