Watch: Rory Patterson apologised for this Panenka penalty miss on Crusaders debut
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes that his men's hard-fought 4-2 victory over Ards at Seaview last night is a sign of things to come this season - with opposition sides determined to make it tougher than ever for the champions.
Approaching the game, many felt the Crues would brush Ards aside in their Danske Bank Premiership opener but that was not the case as Colin Nixon's men came from two down to equalise in a gripping contest before the class and persistence of the Shore Road men finally told.
New signing Rory Patterson scored and missed a penalty on his debut with Michael Carvill, Jordan Forsythe and substitute Declan Caddell also on target for the home side while captain Gareth Tommons netted twice for Ards, who had Joshua Kelly sent off late on.
Nixon bemoaned refereeing decisions that went against his men while Baxter was relieved and content to start his side's defence of the title with three points.
"The teams that come to play here and wherever we go this year will be throwing bodies on the line and working really, really hard to try and stop us as Ards did," admitted Baxter.
"That's the way it should be. It will be tough for us but we have a strong squad and are ready for that challenge."
Baxter continued: “I’d say (Ards boss) Colin Nixon will say that his players gave him all they had and going forward we expect that to be the case against every team we play.”
Baxter revealed that striker Patterson, signed last week from Derry City, apologised for trying a Panenka style chipped penalty which sailed over the bar when the Crues held a narrow 2-1 lead just before the break.
New Crusaders signing Rory Patterson is having quite the Debut so far...— BBC SPORT NI (@BBCSPORTNI) August 6, 2018
❌ Penalty miss
Match highlights will be available on the BBC Sport NI website later this evening#BBCIrishPrem pic.twitter.com/sMDtn3TtEM
“Rory should really score the penalty. You don’t chip balls like that when the game is close at 2-1. Also, it was a very bad mistake at the back for their first goal and I was bothered by us not being 3-0 up at half-time,” said Baxter.
“They’re grown men, they apologise if they make a mistake. Billy Joe Burns put his hand up for their first goal and Rory apologised for the penalty.
“Rory was hurt. He came off the pitch when we substituted him and he apologised again. I thought Rory gave us a great shift in his first game. His goal was sublime and there were other flashes of brilliance. I was pleased with his performance.
“In general in the first half I thought we knocked the ball about like Barcelona. There was sensational football and we scored a great goal through Michael Carvill.
“Everything was done at a fast pace, which is exactly what we want, but in the second half we didn’t pass it as well, though I have to be happy with a 4-2 win.”
Nixon was proud of his team’s spirited performance, but not so pleased with inconsistent referee Tony Clarke.
“I don’t want to be too critical but I thought there were a lot of decisions that were odd, and had they gone for us I definitely think we would have got something out of the game, and for the level of effort we put in I think we deserved to get something,” said Nixon.
“Too many decisions were strange and went against us. I can count five or six but we have to take it on the chin and move on.”