Belfast Telegraph

County Antrim Shield reaction: We could have scored seven in the first half, says Crusaders boss

Crusaders' first-half display was the focus of manager Stephen Baxter's praise after full-time at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

Baxter's unstoppable side stretched their unbeaten run to 101 days by seeing off Ballymena United 4-2 in the Toals County Antrim Shield final.

The win secured a first knock-out trophy since 2012. They were three goals to the good and, as Baxter acknowledges, it could have been more.

"I thought we were magnificent," he told BBC Radio Ulster. "If it had been seven goals in the first half, you'd have said fair enough. Ballymena rallied in the second half but we were really good tonight. Getting to the ball first, making the right runs, it was really good from us."

Goal-scoring defender Howard Beverland, who netted the first of the night, was already turning his attention to the other competitions Crusaders are targeting. They've still got the semi-finals of the League Cup and the Scottish Challenge Cup to play, are leading the league and still going in the Irish Cup.

"We've got to aim high," he told BBC's Joel Taggart. "We're not getting carried away, we're in early stages. All we want to do is keep our unbeaten record going. It means a lot to us. If we can prioritise that, the games will look after themselves."

Beaten boss David Jeffrey bemoaned missed opportunities, including that Brian Jensen save from Kevin Braniff with the score at 3-1.

"We had two great chances to bring it back to 3-2 but we didn't take those," he told BBC Radio Ulster. "We came out strong in the second half. Jensen makes a great save from Kevin Braniff, they go up the other end and seal the game. You have to take your chances when you're on top. Well done to Crusaders but I'm very proud of my own players and how they responded."

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