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Crusaders players must prove their worth against Donegal Celtic, insists Baxter

By Graham Luney

Defiant Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter says he's not in the business of making excuses and admits his players will need to find another gear to win trophies this season.

The Crues are now five points behind league leaders Coleraine after a scoreless draw at home to Ards on Saturday saw them return to earth with a thud after their thrilling midweek victory over Linfield.

After watching his side fail to win two of their four home league games so far, Baxter will shuffle his pack for a County Antrim Shield clash at home to Donegal Celtic tonight looking for a reaction.

"It's early days, I'll not worry about it, we will move on but we must start passing the ball better," said the Crues boss.

"We had a few below-par performances in terms of energy levels but these are seasoned Irish League players and they should be able to cope with all of that. We shouldn't be looking for any excuses. We simply didn't do enough in the final third.

"We have top players who need to play. Let's hope we pass the ball better.

"We've got a lot of competitions like the League Cup and IRN-BRU Cup, but it's the same for a lot of teams in Northern Ireland and there will be no excuses from us. We will set up teams to win matches, I don't believe in half hearted stuff.

"We have got very good players who are ready to play and need to play. It's up to them to perform at a level which says, 'Pick me for the next game', and that's how it always should be.

"Donegal Celtic will love coming here and they will raise their game."

Ards are also in Shield action, on the road to Larne. Boss Colin Nixon said: "I'm old school, I want to win every match, so we will be looking to do well in the competition. I'll be putting out a team that will hopefully win the game.

"They have nothing to lose really, it's at their place. I've played there for a few months, it's a tough place to go, a tight pitch and they will be looking to take a scalp. We have to make sure they don't."

Meanwhile, Cliftonville boss Barry Gray has admitted his troops need a lift against Knockbreda in a Shield clash at Solitude. The Reds lie seventh in the Danske Bank Premiership table after netting only two wins in seven outings.

"The pressure is on any manager, any club and any team that's got those stats," said Gray.

"We've miles to go, everyone can see that and I'm not beating around or making any excuses.

"People talk about patience - it's not about patience. I'll do my best to make it better for this week. People won't see the work that does go on to try and get us where we need to be, unfortunately they are just going to have to trust me."

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