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Crusaders stay grounded as they hit the top and Baxter tips Ballinamallard to avoid drop

Ballinamallard 0 Crusaders 3

By Simon Mulligan

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter played down the fact that his team had gone top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a routine win over basement boys Ballinamallard United at a sodden Ferney Park yesterday.

The high-flying Crues went a point clear of long term leaders Coleraine whose game at home to champions Linfield had been postponed due to the weather.

Goals by Jordan Forsythe, a Matty Smyth own goal and another Billy Joe Burns Christmas cracker secured an 18th win for the in-form Crues who were last beaten in the league by Glenavon back in mid October.

Since then the Shore Road men have secured 37 out of a possible 39 points.

Baxter insisted no one was getting carried away by the fact that the Crues had hit the summit.

"I knew the Christmas programme would be a tough ask but the players have stood up to the test particularly well," he said. "It's nice to go top of the table but it is only three points.

"We were in this position last year, if not a bit further in front and contrived to lose it. We're take nothing for granted, it's nice but from our point of view it is only about adding another three points. There are still a lot of games to play.

"Coleraine are a top team, Linfield are a top team, Cliftonville are a top team, Glenavon are an excellent team, so you have all these sides capable around you.

"Ballymena and Glentoran can beat anyone on their day, then you have Dungannon, Ards, Warrenpoint, that goes for teams right through the league.

"Ballinamallard, to be in the position they are in, bamboozles me," he said. "They are a way better team than they are showing in terms of results. They are competitive and they will get the break of the ball. Second half of the season they'll climb the table."

Ballinamallard: Brush, McCann, O'Reilly (McKenna, 46 mins), Smyth, McLaughlin, Taheny, Leddy, Clarke (McCartney, 77 mins),Curran, Martyn (McIlwaine, 66 mins), Burns. Unused subs: Britton, Armstrong.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Coates, Snoddy, Lowry, Heatley, Whyte (Cushley, 89 mins), Forsythe, Owens (Ward, 89 mins), McCrystal. Unused subs: Dougherty, Caddell, McClean.

Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)

Man of the match: Jordan Forsythe

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph

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