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Manager Stephen Baxter knows Crusaders can’t afford a repeat of weekend display

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Reaction time: Stephen Baxter is seeking a big improvement

Reaction time: Stephen Baxter is seeking a big improvement

©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Reaction time: Stephen Baxter is seeking a big improvement

Stephen Baxter will hope his weekend plans to watch a video nasty will provide a happy ending this evening.

The Crusaders boss was left scratching his head on Saturday when his side limped to a 2-0 defeat by Ballymena United and knows they cannot afford a repeat show against Portadown.

“I thought we were just a hair off it (at Ballymena) and that’s for me to go and have another look at it in the cold light of day on tape and see who exactly is tired, look at some stats on that and see if we need to make one or two changes,” he said.

“It is a gruelling schedule, no doubt, but that doesn’t take anything away from Ballymena’s victory because they had that little bit more in the tank, I felt, particularly in the last 10 or 15 minutes when they were breaking away and there were four or five bodies breaking up the pitch.”

Portadown will be in no mood to show any mercy at Seaview and Baxter knows his side face a tough examination.

“There’s no easy games, no matter where you play your football match it’ll be a tricky encounter because teams are very well set up and have people capable of getting a goal,” he explained. “Portadown coming to us, we will give them the utmost respect.

"They are a good side, they drew with Linfield and Larne, so we need to be on our toes if we’re going to get a result, but we look forward to the challenge.”

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And he is also looking forward to having key men such as Ross Clarke and Philip Lowry back after their cameo roles off the bench on Saturday.

“Ross hasn’t played a lot of football in the last six months, he played an hour the other night and wasn’t sure about his levels as he’s only coming back,” added Baxter.

“Having Philip back is good, Daniel (Larmour) had his first game back after being out for six weeks. All of these things are important because of the amount of games we’ve had.

“We’ve had a few yellow cards and we lose one or two players here and there, so we need those players fit and available and they’ll all be called on in the coming weeks.”


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