Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders are aiming to turn up heat as league race gathers pace

Experienced: Stephen Baxter is veteran of league run-ins
Experienced: Stephen Baxter is veteran of league run-ins

By Graham Luney

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter can feel the pressure rising in the Danske Bank Premiership as 2020 dawns.

The advantage Baxter and his men have on some of their rivals is that they have been down this road many times before.

It may have been a bumpy season for the Crues at times, but when it comes to winning titles, they know what it takes to get across the line.

This campaign is shaping up to be a real thriller, with only four points separating the top five sides, and it could well go right to the wire.

Baxter has experienced all the exertions of a title run in, right until the final day, so he knows what separates the good from the great, and ahead of his side's trip to Warrenpoint Town this afternoon, he will expect his boys to keep moving through the gears after their 5-0 home win over Dungannon Swifts.

"You sometimes need Lady Luck on your side and momentum can play a big part in a title race," said Baxter.

"If you can get a few late winners that can swing things in your favour, but they can be fine margins. We've lost a title we probably should have won and you expect the heat to go up as we see the stadium approach in the marathon.

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"At the stage you must hold your nerve and fight for every point that's available. Having your big players fit is important, and it helps if there's no sign of weakness around the decision-making process."

With the transfer window open, Baxter will keep a close eye on what moves are possible this month.

"Football can change dramatically overnight when players become available but it needs to be the right player," he added.

"Sometimes the January window is not the one you're looking for. It's a difficult window and you need a little fortune sometimes, there are budget constraints as well."

Crusaders have confirmed that Nathan Hanley has been appointed Head of Youth Development, replacing the retiring Mervyn Montgomery.

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