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Stephen Baxter: Crusaders could have scored six against Linfield on Saturday

 

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Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter

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Stephen Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter travels to Dungannon tonight still reeling after his side surrendered their long unbeaten home record to Linfield on Saturday.

Until Jimmy Callacher popped up with a last minute winner, the Crues hadn't lost a league game at Seaview in over a year - 13 outings - since Cliftonville won the 2019 Boxing Day derby.

It's a result that leaves Baxter's men fighting an uphill battle to rival the Blues for the league title, now seven points behind having played a game more.

But, ask the man himself and he'll tell you it should have been a different outcome on Saturday, as Paul Heatley was denied only by a stunning piece of last gasp defending from Ross Larkin and Chris Hegarty saw a volley expertly tipped away by Chris Johns.

"It's the best performance we have given this season but unfortunately the scoreline didn't reflect that," said Baxter.

"If the scoreline had read 6-2 to us, it would have been a fairer reflection of the game. The possession stats and dominance of the game would show you we were well on top and it was a good performance.

"It was 2-1 to Linfield and you are left scratching your head asking, 'How did that happen?' They have been in our box once for the goal and get a fluke cross which goes into the net which is disappointing. That's football and I can't fault our players in any shape or form.

"I congratulated them and thanked them for their effort. I felt the players were brilliant and we played Linfield off the park. David (Healy) will know that, he will know they got away with one and that's football."

What Healy did point out afterwards was that it's his own side, rather than Baxter's ,that now boast the best home record this season, both having picked up 22 points at their own stadiums but the Blues having a better goal difference and played a game fewer.

"I hear about other teams' records but I think that makes us the best team in the country," he said. "That's on record now, we are the best home side and to win at Seaview by fighting hard is a massive credit to the players."

Linfield travel to basement side Carrick Rangers tonight, with chasing Larne and Crusaders hoping for a shock result to breathe new life into the title race.

Belfast Telegraph


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