Baxter warns Crues to expect a battle against feisty Gers
Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter has doffed his cap in the direction of Carrick Rangers - but warns his boys will be travelling to the Loughshore Hotel Arena tonight to end a sequence of disappointing results.
The north Belfast team have won only one of their last six games which has led to them falling six points adrift of high-flying Coleraine at the top of the table.
Their last Danske Bank Premiership win was against Linfield back on October 4, but Baxter insists the race for the Gibson Cup is a marathon, not a sprint and his looking to put things right against a Rangers side buoyed by an impressive win over Ballymena United last weekend.
"Personally, I don't think we pay enough compliments to teams in the bottom six," he said.
"Institute are on a great run under new boss Sean Connor, getting good results against better teams. That is no surprise because the players are being well coached.
"And Carrick come into the same category, I have been mightily impressed by them.
"They have lost a lot of their games by the odd goal and they gave a good account of themselves against Linfield at Windsor Park. Apparently they were good value for their win against Ballymena United last weekend - and that's no mean feat up there.
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"This team is not to be under-estimated. They have good players in and around the squad. They are will marshalled by big (Mark) Surgenor. James Ferrin is a competent player, they have (Dan) Kelly, (Willie) Faulkner and (Kyle) Cherry, they are all good players. The lad (Stuart) Nixon is an excellent player for them. He's a good prospect, so they have a few key boys in there that have done well. They are difficult enough to beat on that little tight pitch, so we know what to expect. Carrick are a team that are hard to break down and that's the way it should be.
"You have to work very hard for your points - that's the way it is at all levels of the game. There are no easy pickings anywhere, the days of banker points are gone."
Baxter has no problems with the game being brought forward to tonight, especially after his boys' energy sapping goalless outing at Larne on Monday.
"I think Carrick Rangers thought the Northern Ireland-Holland game at Windsor Park would have an effect on the crowd, so they put in an early request to bring the game forward," he added.
"By the same token, we had plenty of time to recover from the Monday night game. It's similar to a Saturday-Tuesday scenario, we have no problems or issues with it."
Baxter is hoping to have the same squad available, adding: "We had Chris Hegarty back in training this week, which is a bonus. He's been doing a fair bit over the last week.
"He played for the reserves on Wednesday night. Rodney Brown is also on the comeback trail. That's good news. We have a few boys making a bit of an effort to get back in again."
• Linfield have announced that former midfielder Kyle McClean has agreed a return to the club in January on a two-and-a-half year deal.
Carrick Rangers vs Crusaders
Dansk Bank Premiership
Loughshore Hotel Arena, Tonight, 7.45pm