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Crusaders won't lose sleep over derby defeat: Baxter

Cliftonville 3-1 Crusaders

By Conor McLaughlin

When the time comes for Brian Jensen to call time on his colourful career, one wonders where the Bowling Green End at Solitude will rank among his many memories.

The 42-year-old Crusaders goalkeeper has seen it all on a footballing odyssey that has taken him from his native Denmark and, via the Netherlands, lifted him to cult status in the English Premier League - but two clashes with Cliftonville in the last five weeks have surely produced career firsts.

Last month, he saved a Joe Gormley penalty only for a re-take to be awarded when it transpired that dismissed Crues team-mate Declan Caddell had not yet left the pitch.

This weekend, he faced the same player from the same penalty spot at the same end of the ground - but this time he had nobody to blame but himself after needlessly tripping Reds defender Jamie Harney in the box.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter called it "the height of stupidity" and Gormley, who had opened the scoring a minute before Rory Donnelly doubled the hosts' advantage, made no mistake to put Cliftonville in complete control.

Despite seeing his side - who claimed a late consolation through Jordan Owens - slip to their first away defeat of the Danske Bank Premiership season, boss Baxter insisted there was no need for any histrionics.

"We'll not lose any sleep, we went 20 games undefeated and we've lost this game in the first 20 minutes," he reflected.

"The real Cliftonville team showed up because when you see where they are in the league given the quality they have in that changing room - which is amazing, absolutely amazing - maybe this will kick-start their season.

"When you see them play like that, that's where the questions are asked about them short changing their manager this season, but we can have no complaints, the better team won."

Baxter admitted that many of his players weren't at the races, but has backed them to maintain their charge to the title.

"You need your key people playing well," he added.

"Gavin Whyte has had an off-day, Philip Lowry and Declan Caddell have had off-days, three out of the back four had off-days and the goalkeeper hasn't covered himself in glory. So we'd four, five, six players who just haven't hit the mark but those players have been unbelievable this season.

"BJ (Burns) has probably been our worst player here but he's been our best performer this season by a country mile - and that's including Gavin Whyte - so you can't be critical.

"They've been unbelievable, they've just had a bad day at the office. They are brilliant players and they will respond."

Reds boss Barry Gray revealed he had challenged his men to prove they were better than recent displays have suggested.

"Winning the game was pleasing but what was even more pleasing was the performance because it was miles and miles above anything we've seen in recent months," he said.

"The players know they're good enough to play and I know they are as well. Performances of late haven't backed that up for any of us, but that performance and result will give everyone a hundred times more belief than I ever will verbally or they ever will verbally. Doing is believing.

"We said before the game, 'Go and show yourselves, go and show us. Forget about showing anyone else, show how good we are, bring confidence and be brave on the ball' - and the way we started the game was probably the best start to a game we've had this season.

"There's no difference in legs, no difference in bodies and no difference generally in personnel - but there's a difference in mindset and belief."

CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, McGovern, Breen, Harney, Curran (Ives, 87 mins), Garrett, Bagnall, Gormley (J Donnelly, 74 mins), Grimes, McDonald, R Donnelly. Unused subs: Dunne, Harkin, Cosgrove.

CRUSADERS: Jensen, Burns (Cushley, 75 mins), Beverland, Coates, Lowry (Snoddy, 54 mins), Ward, Caddell, Forsythe (Murray, 46 mins), Owens, Heatley, Whyte. Unused subs: O'Neill, Glackin.

Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)

Man of the match: Liam Bagnall

Match rating: 8/10

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