Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders challenge one to relish, maintains Jeffrey

Co Antrim Shield quarter-final

Mutual respect: Stephen Baxter and David Jeffrey
Mutual respect: Stephen Baxter and David Jeffrey

By Billy Weir

The old saying goes that familiarity breeds contempt but that certainly isn't the case for the managers of tonight's second clash in four days between Ballymena United and Crusaders.

The sides played out a rip-roaring 1-1 draw at Warden Street and go toe-to-toe again tonight with a semi-final spot in the Co Antrim Shield up for grabs.

The Crues are the current holders of the trophy but far from baulking at the challenge, David Jeffrey is relishing it.

"We're coming up against a full-time team, we've got to test ourselves," he maintained.

"Great credit must go to Stephen Baxter and Crusaders Football Club.

"I noted with interest last week in the League Cup against Limavady United, they made 11 changes, changed the whole team and look at the team they had, my goodness.

"That hasn't come overnight, that has come with hard work and success that Stephen has enjoyed and he has built that.

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"You could look at it two ways, daunting certainly is one way of looking at it but for me personally I just think it's a fantastic challenge and we'll give it our best."

The mutual appreciation is shared by Baxter of Jeffrey's men, who he rates highly.

"People talk about their slow start to the season, we were the same last season on the back of a tough campaign, but how many games have they lost? A couple and we're 10 games in," he said.

"People are very quick to say it's not the same Ballymena or the same Crusaders and all this nonsense. There's always circumstances that dictate why that is; you lose one or two of your key players for a small period of time and that can reflect on what's going on, but it doesn't make you a bad team overnight and very quickly you can click into gear.

"Last year for the first two or three months we were off it a little bit and then we went on a brilliant run and clawed our way back into it and then we lost Paul Heatley and others and we had to concentrate on the cup.

"Sometimes you need things to work in your favour, but Ballymena are a top side.

"When you play any team that David Jeffrey manages you expect a massive challenge, so I don't see any difference in terms of commitment but what the personnel is like may be different.

"We picked up a few injuries so we'll have to assess those and make some decisions with what we want to do in that game.

"We always look forward to the challenge, I love coming to Ballymena, it's a good pitch, the facilities are fantastic and the Ballymena folk are good football people.

"It's a different competition and on reflection there's so much emphasis on the league these days, you've got to prepare around that.

"You want to go well in the cups and there are lads probably needing a game to show what they can do.

"There will definitely one or two changes."

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