Warrenpoint Town 0 Crusaders 1
Stephen Baxter can’t wait to see the quality that new signing Jude Winchester will bring to Crusaders after the midfielder made his debut in a hard fought victory over Warrenpoint Town.
Winchester, having left Ballymena United last week to return to his native Belfast saying that he made the move to focus on his mental health, came off the bench on 83 minutes at Milltown and produced a lively cameo.
Crues boss Baxter is certain there is much more to come from his latest all action performer who spilt blood for the cause.
“Jude is a quality footballer. He has ability and he has natural touch and flair,” said Baxter.
“He’s a great player and a player I have admired for a number of years. You know quality when you see it and he has that. He’s also brave and broke his nose on his debut with a swinging elbow. The blood was flying out of his nose.
“We are delighted that he is here and we are looking forward to seeing what he produces in the weeks and months that lie ahead.”
In December, Ballymena boss David Jeffrey declared Winchester would be staying at the Showgrounds for the rest of the season but an early deal was agreed with Crusaders in the best interests of the player.
“I have to pay tribute to David Jeffrey and Ballymena,” explained Baxter.
“This was a scenario whereby we were going to take Jude in the summer when his contract expired. Jude had expressed that interest to come back to Belfast. David obviously tried to persuade a very good player to stay at Ballymena and, when that didn’t happen and I asked David about a pre-contract for the summer, both of us worked it out for Jude’s best interests to get him back home.
“He has three small children at home and he needs to spend more time there so there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that needed to be dealt with.
“When you have a relationship with David Jeffrey, it makes life a whole lot easier and I hope he says the same when he speaks to me about players from our end.”
Baxter was pleased with his team’s patience that eventually led to Ross Clarke’s winner after the goalscorer had opened up the Town defence with a superb run before snapping up a rebound when Paul Heatley hit the post. The Crues supremo also paid tribute to his solid back line which included the impressive Chris Hegarty who was forced off in the closing stages with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Warrenpoint gave a debut to 17-year-old goalkeeper Stephen McMullan. He excelled and, all in all, Town made it a tough afternoon for the visitors but it was another defeat, leaving them five points adrift at the bottom.
Manager Barry Gray hit out at ‘Hollywood critics’ of his side in recent weeks and called on everyone connected to the club to show their support as they try to fight their way out of trouble.
WARRENPOINT: McMullan, Wade Slater, Hand, Byrne, Leddy, McKenna (Peers, 73 mins), Ball (Gallagher, 83 mins), McCaffrey, Dillon, Maguire (Wixted, 58 mins), O’Sullivan (Moorhouse, 83 mins). Unused subs: Coleman, Deasy, Hutchinson.
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns, Hegarty (Larmour, 90 mins), Wilson, Robinson, Weir (Lecky, 65 mins), Lowry, Forsythe (Caddell, 83 mins), Clarke, Kennedy (Winchester, 83 mins), Heatley. Unused subs: O’Neill, O’Rourke, Owens.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)
Man of the match: Ben Kennedy
Match rating: 6/10