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I had to shuffle Crusaders pack, insists Stephen Baxter


Changes ahead: Stephen Baxter needs fresh legs

Changes ahead: Stephen Baxter needs fresh legs

Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

Changes ahead: Stephen Baxter needs fresh legs

A number of Hatchetmen left Seaview disappointed on Monday night after a weakened Crusaders lost 4-1 to Sligo Rovers.

Boss Stephen Baxter made seven changes, resting a number of key players for the Setanta Cup game. While that decision wasn't universally popular with Crusaders fans, Baxter believes it had to be done, if the club are to compete on three fronts this week.

He said: "We've a lot of big games coming up, between the League, the Irish Cup and Tuesday's County Antrim Shield final, so it's important that I utilise my squad as best as I possibly can.

"You can't ask guys like Paul Leeman or Gary McCutcheon to play six games in three weeks. It's not possible. We need to use the younger lads who can play two games in a week, as that's what it's going to take.

"Your season ebbs and flows. The league is obviously our bread and butter, but we take the cup competitions seriously, as nowadays you only play for four trophies in this country. We've got Ballyclare in the Cup on Saturday and Linfield in the Shield on Tuesday, and we will need a big push for those games.

"We've got to two finals already and we're desperate to reach a third, but that takes a huge amount of effort."

Tomorrow see Crusaders take on Belfast Telegraph Championship One side Ballyclare Comrades at Seaview. Baxter is determined not to underestimate Eddie Hill's men.

"I watched Ballyclare on Saturday and I came away with a full brief," he added. "I know all about their strengths and weaknesses. They're a good Championship team that work hard for each other and they've beaten a couple of good teams along the way.

"They'll not fear us because we're a Premiership team – as a club they've been in the top flight themselves. In Eddie Hill, they've a manager who has been in the game for a long time and he has a couple of quality players.

"There is a chance for everybody who is still in the competition. We're going to have one of Bangor or Queen's in the semi-final, after all. It makes for an interesting Irish Cup."

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