Belfast Telegraph

Title is Linfield's to lose but Crusaders still have plenty to play for: Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

By Steven Beacom

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter insists that his side still have much to play for this season even if league title glory may be beyond them.

Baxter admitted after his side's 4-2 victory over Coleraine last week that it would take a major collapse from Linfield for the Seaview men to have a chance of overhauling them at the top.

It was an honest assessment given that Linfield are nine points clear of the third-placed Crues, with Ballymena United sandwiched in between.

Crusaders, who have won three titles in four seasons, could go level on points with Ballymena should they beat Glenavon at home tonight, though they also have to look over their shoulder because if Gary Hamilton's men win they will move to within a victory of Baxter's side with a game in hand.

Glenavon have had a poor run of late but Monday's 2-1 comeback victory at Glentoran suggests they may be turning a corner.

For the Crues, they also have an Irish Cup quarter-final at home to Ballymena and a County Antrim Shield final against Linfield to think about.

"We have a lot to play for. There is an Irish Cup on the line, the County Antrim Shield final and obviously European places to play for," said Baxter. "We will certainly be throwing everything at it in the next number of weeks.

"In the league it's Linfield's title to lose. All we can do is play our games. I know Linfield play Ballymena but I don't particularly worry about what is going on at other grounds.

"If other teams come out on top I'll be the first person to send a message of congratulations because that's how we do it."

In their last outing the Crues were impressive in the second half, with David Cushley netting twice after Coleraine dominated the opening 45 minutes.

"The back five were exceptional for us versus Coleraine and that provided the platform to go on and win," said Baxter.

"Our second-half performance was what we are all about. We scored before the break through Colin Coates and got about our business in the second half.

"Credit to Coleraine because they were 3-0 down and had a charge to come back, but we got what was an important win."

Belfast Telegraph

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