Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Whyte sure Crusaders won't hit the panic button in title run-in

By Alex Mills

Flying winger Gavin Whyte insists Crusaders don't do panic.

The Shore Road boys were staring down the barrel of defeat in Tuesday's night's epic Danske Bank Premiership top-of-the-table clash with Coleraine at Seaview, but refused to wilt.

Trailing to a second-half Jamie McGonigle penalty, Stephen Baxter's boys could well have buckled under the pressure in front of a sell-out Seaview crowd.

Instead, Baxter demonstrated what a shrewd manager he is by throwing caution to the wind and introducing strike pair David Cushley and Darren Murray.

Within 60 seconds of replacing a struggling Jordan Owens, Cushley hit the jackpot by plundering the equaliser - with only his second touch. It was his ninth goal of the season and one that could duly land the Crues the title.

Indeed, it was another indication that the Crues hope to make up for lost time after losing out on the Gibson Cup in dramatic circumstances to Linfield 12 months ago.

"There was no panic," stressed Northern Ireland Under-21 international Whyte. "The gaffer was smart enough to change it right away - he didn't hang about.

"He changed the tactics and put more men forward. It's great that we can bring on boys like Darren and 'Cush'. It says a lot about our squad.

"Over the 90 minutes, we had the more clear-cut chances. And, even when we equalised, we missed a couple of great opportunities to win it. We are a little bit disappointed we didn't take all three points."

Although the first half was tetchy and played at a ferocious pace with tackles flying in, the second 45 minutes developed into a fantastic advertisement for the local game - two giants going toe-to-toe.

"I thought it was a great game," said Whyte. "We always knew what kind of match it would be - it was always going to be a battle. Coleraine are a good side and are sitting second in the table for a reason.

"It was a great night for Irish League football in general, I think the fans were treated to a great game. The first half was more like a sparring match. Both sides were sussing each other out and just hoping for a little opening.

"It was like a game of tennis, the action flowing from one end to the other."

With only four games now remaining - and Glenavon up today - the Crues are still firmly in the driving seat, maintaining their two-point advantage at the top.

Whyte added: "In the grand scheme of things and the way the league is set up at the minute, a draw wasn't at all a bad result on Tuesday.

"We were a goal down with around 10 minutes to go, I suppose we would have settled for a draw all day long.

"At the end of the day, the destination of the league title is still in our own hands. We have four big games left - we'll not be focusing on any other side or the permutations.

"We'll look after ourselves. Our next game against Glenavon is now our priority.

"That will be another difficult game. I know they have gone through a little indifferent spell in terms of results, but we'll be taking nothing for granted.

"I'm sure they'll be looking to bounce back after their latest defeat by Linfield in midweek.

"But as I said before, we're not really worried about any other side, we just concentrate on what we need to do.

"It's probably a boring cliché, but we'll be taking one game at a time."

Belfast Telegraph

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