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'Sometimes you do that to your detriment': Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter says Cliftonville's time wasting tactics backfired in north Belfast derby

 

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Ben Kennedy's last gasp equaliser was his fifth goal since signing for Crusaders in the summer.

Ben Kennedy's last gasp equaliser was his fifth goal since signing for Crusaders in the summer.

Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Ben Kennedy's last gasp equaliser was his fifth goal since signing for Crusaders in the summer.

Crusaders manager Steven Baxter reckoned Cliftonville only had themselves to blame as the Reds were denied a north Belfast derby victory by a last gasp equaliser in Saturday's only game in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Both of the other scheduled fixtures - Coleraine's trip to Carrick and Warrenpoint's home tie against Dungannon - were called off, although the latter made it through a 10.30am pitch inspection before being postponed just over an hour before kick-off.

The synthetic surface at Solitude allowed the derby to go ahead, with the Reds denied victory by a 93rd minute leveller from Crusaders' Ben Kennedy.

It was the former Stevenage midfielder's fifth goal since arriving at the club in the summer and his first from open play as his right-wing cross swung right through the box and into the far side of the net.

Jamie McGonigle's penalty had put the Crues ahead but it had seemed that goals from Rory Hale - who swapped between the two sides earlier this month - and Chris Hegarty (in the wrong net) had given the Reds all three points.

In the closing minutes, the visitors piled on the pressure and eventually got a leveller that their manager felt was both justified and only encouraged by Cliftonville's defensive tactics.

"We knew they were backing in (in the closing minutes)," he said. "They slowed the game down and they were wasting time constantly for those last eight minutes, which was very frustrating. Sometime you do that to your detriment and ultimately we got the quality ball in. It was a wonderful delivery from Ben and it was a good moment for us.

"It was a really entertaining game. Both games set their stall out to try and win the game. We got off to a great start and I thought we were very comfortably for 30 minutes.

"The manner of Cliftonville's (first) goal, we really should have dealt with it. The ball comes up, BJ (Burns) and (Chris) Hegarty contrive to get in each other's road and we concede what for me is a poor goal.

"I thought we had Cliftonville at a distance. We weren't really under pressure from them.

"Then in the second half, to their credit, they came at us hard for ten minutes. They got a good ball into the box and Chris tries to clear one and it flies into our net.

"That was disappointing but we made a quick change to our shape, got Jordan Owens on, who wasn't 100% fit, but he put himself about up there and we gave them no end of trouble with balls into their box. We got onto the end of a few balls and we always felt something was going to break for us. We didn't think it would take until the 94th minute!"

It's a result that means Crusaders have won just two of their last eight Premiership games on the road, a run stretching back into last season. It's in stark contrast to their home form, with 10 wins and a draw in their last 11 Premiership matches at Seaview.

However, Baxter isn't keen on over-analysing such statistics.

"It's sometimes difficult to put your finger on form," he said. "We lost at Larne, Glenavon and we lost at Linfield. In two of those games, we were well in it and today we've come away with a draw. From my perspective, I look at the wins - this is our first draw of the season.

"Sometimes you come away from home and you're playing on the front foot - you're trying to win a football match - and games at this level are very hard to win. They're very good teams that you're playing.

"We won the first game of the season away at Warrenpoint, which is no easy place to go. Then we won the next game at Ballymena - no easy place to go - so I concentrate on the most recent games.

"I don't get too carried away with taking the stats back too far.

"Stats can show you things that don't necessarily adds up. You can say you haven't beaten a particular team at home for three years but maybe you've only played them three times."

Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin said his defence did not deserve to conceded the late leveller, especially in such strange circumstances.

"It's a freak goal. It's a bit of a punch in the stomach - a sickener. It's very disappointing for the players," he said.

"When you play against Crusaders, you know you'll be bombarded by long balls into the box. Jordan Owens is a handful and he tries to bully centre-halves but I thought both of ours, Garry Breen and Jamie Harney, were superb and deserved to win. I'm disappointed for them.

"This place should be bouncing today and there's no doubt if we had the crowd behind us, we wouldn't have conceded that late goal."

Belfast Telegraph


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