Belfast Telegraph

Stephen Baxter backing his troops after lacklustre opening

By Keith Bailie

Stephen Baxter is refusing to panic despite the fact Crusaders have only claimed one point from their opening two games.

The Danske Bank Premiership champions face Ballinamallard United at Seaview tomorrow (3pm) off the back of a 2-1 defeat to Portadown and a 2-2 draw with Glentoran.

Crues boss Baxter was keen to point out that his side failed to win their first two games last season, drawing with Glenavon and Ballymena United.

In their third game, they beat Ballinamallard 3-1 at Seaview.

Baxter would like to see something similar happen tomorrow.

"There are 36 games to go, so I'm certainly not panicking at this stage of the season," said the Seaview supremo who guided Crusaders to their first championship in 18 years.

"We've only played two games and they were both against sides I expect to do very well this season, so I see no reason to worry.

"If you think about it, we had a similar start this time last year and it turned out alright in the end.

"Maybe it's a hangover from European competition.

"You travel a lot and you pick up injuries that you otherwise wouldn't.

"We haven't played with any great rhythm so far this season.

"We haven't had that smoothness in our play that we enjoyed last season, but these things will all settle in over the course of the first few weeks.

"It takes six games for everyone to knuckle down and settle in.

"We will be raring to go come Saturday."

Wednesday night's 2-2 draw with Glentoran was an entertaining affair, but the champions left The Oval feeling somewhat frustrated.

They were unable to win the match despite having a man advantage for 86 minutes of the game, with keeper Elliott Morris seeing red early doors.

New boy Michael Carvill also missed a first half penalty.

Reflecting on the game, Baxter added: "We are disappointed that we aren't going away with all three considering we played with an man advantage for 86 minutes. That's the overriding emotion.

"We had enough ball. We had enough territory.

"We had enough chances. But we didn't penetrate them nearly often enough. At 10 men they sent a shape up that was hard to break down and they worked very hard for each other, which is exactly what they needed to do with a man less.

"They had an outlet ball over the top for young Conor McMenamin and they used that to good effect.

"That's football. You just have to accept results like this sometimes.

"It was a big dig-out performance from Glentoran and although we're very disappointed not to win, they deserve a lot of credit."

Winger Gavin Whyte should return from injury. He missed the Glentoran game with a dead leg.

Jordan Stewart scored a brace for the Glens including a wonder strike from 30 yards which keeper Sean O'Neill admitted afterwards had been the best goal scored past him in his career.

Glens boss Eddie Patterson said: "I am happy because we had the hunger and desire which was missing at Coleraine on Saturday.

"There was a good response from the players.

"The only disappointing thing is conceding two goals from two set pieces."

Belfast Telegraph

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