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Our big players are now coming to the fore, beams Baxter

Ards 2-4 Crusaders

By Keith Bailie

While Coleraine and Glenavon have made the headlines in recent weeks, Crusaders are now hitting their stride.

Stephen Baxter's men have hit a remarkable 17 goals in their last five games, and Saturday's 4-2 win over Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena reduced the gap between themselves and leaders Coleraine to nine points.

A delighted Baxter said: "I'm very pleased with our response to a couple of disappointing results earlier in the season.

"Over the last four weeks we have played some excellent football and scored a lot of goals.

"We look dangerous and we look alive, and that's great.

"Gavin Whyte has really lifted his game in recent weeks, while Paul Heatley has chipped in with a number of crucial goals.

"They bring a bit of quality to the game, which lights things up and gets the fans excited, but for me, our win over Ards was a team performance.

"As a manager, though, you can't get too carried away. You've got to continue to work hard and continue to take each game as it comes and see how far results take you."

On the day, a Gavin Whyte header gave Crusaders a 1-0 lead at half-time before a Paul Heatley lob and a second Whyte strike made it 3-0.

In injury time, Guillaume Keke and Kyle Cherry both scored for Ards either side of a David Cushley strike, to leave the scoreline at 4-2.

Reflecting on the win, Baxter added: "We managed the game particularly well from start to finish.

"Ards set up in a way to stop us from playing but we were able to get some joy from taking the ball into the wide areas.

"We dealt with everything Ards threw at us quite comfortably until the final five minutes.

"It was disappointing to concede two goals near the end of the game, but we won't let that take the gloss off the performance.

"It was a comfortable victory for us and I think we could have won by a few more goals."

Ards boss Colin Nixon said: "We contained Crusaders well in the first half, only to be undone by a stupid goal.

"But even at 1-0 down I felt we were still in with a chance of nicking something in the second half, but then we concede another two goals that were completely avoidable and that's the match over as a contest.

"You can't concede three or four soft goals to a team like Crusaders and expect to take points from the game."

ards: Johnston, Glendinning, Byers, Taylor, Ruddy, McMillen, Tommons (Cherry, 46 mins), Kelly, Hanley, McAllister (Frazer, 70 mins), Arthurs (Keke, 57 mins). Unused subs: Elebert, Mitchell.

Crusaders: Jensen, Burns, Beverland, Coates, McCrystal, Caddell, Forsythe, Snoddy (Brown, 81 mins), Whyte (Cushley, 73 mins), Owens, Heatley (Ward, 75 mins). Unused subs: Glackin, McClean.

Man of the match: Gavin Whyte

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)

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