Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders' full-time benefits are starting to show, says O'Neill


On rise: Sean O’Neill says the Crues are feeling benefit of going full-time
On rise: Sean O’Neill says the Crues are feeling benefit of going full-time

By Graham Luney

Crusaders goalkeeper Sean O'Neill believes the team are starting to reap the benefits of a more full-time culture at Seaview but he insists the players won't get carried away after making a perfect start.

A year on from the Crues' slow start to last season, Stephen Baxter's side have looked sharp and hungry after a European campaign which included a win over B36 Torshavn and two tough battles with Wolves.

Maximum points from the opening three matches sees the Shore Road men sit top of the Danske Bank Premiership but Larne will aim to smash that perfect record at Seaview tomorrow.

O'Neill admits the signs are promising as the Crues aim to wrestle the Gibson Cup off Linfield but no-one will allow complacency to creep in.

"I've had a good pre-season under me and, like everyone else, I'm feeling good," said O'Neill.

"We have strength in depth everywhere and have signed well. Jamie (McGonigle) coming in is a good signing for us and, if you look at the defence, Chris Hegarty and Colin Coates have formed a good partnership.

"When you have Sean Ward and Howard Beverland sitting on the bench, you know there are good options for the manager.

"It's looking good but no-one will be getting carried away. We are too long in the tooth to get ahead of ourselves. We know there are bigger and tougher challenges ahead and we will take it one step at a time.

"We have Larne next and they are obviously a very good side so we are expecting a tough game.

"It's going to be the most competitive league we have seen in years. Six or seven teams can challenge at the top, and Larne will bring big crowds but we always focus on ourselves.

"I think the European games killed us a year ago and the mistake we made was trying to chase games against quality opposition. The way we set up against Wolves was testament to Stephen's (Baxter) tactical awareness in understanding how we should manage games like that.

"Sometimes you just have to be compact and defend well. We did that in Europe and, compared to last year, we have benefited from a good pre-season and the full-time aspect is working.

"There were always going to be teething issues. The management team has adjusted things and training has been first class."

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