Belfast Telegraph

Baxter is calling on Crusaders to show mettle


Cup hope: Stephen Baxter
Cup hope: Stephen Baxter

By Graham Luney

Crusaders begin their Scottish Challenge Cup campaign today and the timing couldn't be better.

For the Shore Road men, a trip to Queen of the South (2.30pm), who lie third in the Scottish Championship, is a welcome break from their domestic struggles.

Monday's 3-0 loss at home to Coleraine in front of the Sky Sports cameras was a bitter pill to swallow for a team looking to defend their title.

While the Bannsiders must now adapt to life after the departure of boss Oran Kearney to St Mirren, the Crues will be looking to find a new gear after winning only two of their opening five Premiership matches.

Crusaders reached the semi-finals of last year's Irn Bru Challenge Cup which this season features clubs from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, although two English National League sides, Sutton United and Boreham Wood, will also take part this year.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter said: "We've had to analyse what this competition means to us against what we want to achieve domestically and I will pick a team that reflects that.

"We have a lot to think about. We have conceded in every league game and our defensive strength is something we are renowned for. We will sort it out quickly while looking for more goals at the other end.

"There are bumps in the road and you can't ride a wave forever but the character of people and a team is shown in how they deal with adversity.

"In football everybody is looking to improve and shoot you down. Linfield dominated the game for 20 years but we fought back in the last few years.

"Everyone is coming after us and we have to raise our game. We have no divine right to win anything and we won't expect any easy games."

Queen of the Sth vs Crusaders

Irn Bru Cup: Palmerston Park, Today, 2.30pm

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