Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter targets 10 match winning run after Cliftonville defeat

Warning: Stephen Baxter is looking for a Crues revival
Warning: Stephen Baxter is looking for a Crues revival

By Graham Luney

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes his players must dig deep and weather a winter storm.

Unless the Crues can embark on a big winning run, their hopes of winning the title will turn to dust.

The 2-1 Boxing Day loss at home to new league leaders Cliftonville was a bitter blow, particularly after they saw another lead come to nothing.

The silver lining for the Shore Road men is that it's fiercely competitive at the top and all the sides will drop points.

Although fifth in the table, the Hatchetmen are just four points behind the Reds, although Paddy McLaughlin's side have played a game less.

Up next for the Crues is a home clash with Dungannon Swifts today and defeat in this one will start sounding a few alarm bells.

"We saw a little bit of our ruthless side at Dungannon when we scored five goals in the second half, we have huffed and puffed in games, let leads slip at Glentoran and Linfield and got nothing against Cliftonville despite playing well," said Baxter.

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"You have to take heart and faith in what you are doing and keep at it.

"I'm disappointed to drop points but the up side of it is we go into another game and keep going.

"None of the teams are going on a big winning run.

"There are a lot of draws in there and we have struggled to put together a run of wins, that's what we need to do. We need a 10 match winning run, that's what is required and we have capable players here.

"You get injuries and we can't get too frustrated with it all.

"On another day we could have been celebrating big results against Linfield and Cliftonville but there's more important things going on in the world than worrying about football matches."

On Boxing Day, David Cushley fired the Crues ahead in the second minute but Conor McMenamin, who agreed a two-year contract extension in October, delivered a swift response and then hammered in the winner in the 79th minute. Baxter may opt for a different attacking formation against the Swifts after Jamie McGonigle was unable to make an impact on the left wing.

The reality is that if the Crues want to stay in the title hunt they must be more ruthless in the final third and start killing off teams.

Baxter added: "We applied a lot of pressure on them and that's something that has been missing from our game, that intensity of pressure but not to get the result is disappointing.

"We'll take it on the chin as we didn't take our chances at the right time. That can happen in a derby and that's football."

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