Belfast Telegraph

League points the priority before cup final: Baxter

 

Celebration: David Cushley scored Crusaders’ first goal
Celebration: David Cushley scored Crusaders’ first goal

By Alex Mills

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter insists his boys must forget about their date in the BetMcLean League Cup final and focus on maintaining their place at the top of the league table.

The Shore Road team secured their spot in the February 15 showpiece decider against Coleraine with a comfortable 2-0 win over Institute at Seaview on Tuesday night.

Goals from David Cushley and Jordan Forsythe guaranteed the Crues their first League Cup final appearance since 2014 - they lost to Cliftonville on penalties on that occasion.

Shrewd Baxter believes his team can't afford to get caught up in the hype of yet another cup final appearance because the pressure now reverts to Danske Bank Premiership business when David Jeffrey's Ballymena United make the trip to Seaview on Saturday.

"We are in the final, and that's great, but that will look after itself when it comes around," he said. "We have a tough December coming up.

"They are all big games, but we will approach them all the same way. We will not get too far ahead of ourselves. Our focus is now on Ballymena United."

The Braidmen will arrive on the Shore Road not having won in their last 10 games, but Baxter will not be lured into a false sense of reckoning.

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He added: "There is nothing easy in this League. People will talk about Ballymena's so called poor run of form, but you've got to treat the two impostors the same.

"When you are enjoying a good run, you accept it and get on with it. If you are not riding your luck, you have to find solutions and dig in. When you turn a corner, you take off again. That's the way it works.

"David (Jeffrey) has exceptional players and he's an exceptional manager. Things will turn for him. Any time they come here they make life difficult for us."

Baxter was thrilled with his team's contribution against Institute.

"It was a dominant performance, we were on the front foot right from the first whistle," he added. "We hit Institute with waves of attack, especially the last 25 minutes of the first half.

"It's a huge thing to be in big finals, we've now been doing it year in year out for the last six or seven years. You never lose that sense of purpose of putting yourself into these big finals, which are live on television."

Meanwhile, Institute boss Sean Connor is still convinced that Cushley's opening goal was offside.

"When you come to places like this against big teams you need officials to be on top of their game," he said. "It's difficult enough playing Crusaders, but when you have to play Crusaders and the officials, it makes it almost impossible.

"They are a good team and they have some quality players. The difference was they scored when they were on top - we didn't."

Connor will be without striker Joe McCready for Saturday's game against Carrick Rangers at the Loughshore Hotel Arena -the striker was dismissed after kicking out at Colin Coates.

"We've worked hard over the last number of weeks, picking up points against teams that we were given little hope against.

"The victory against Coleraine on Saturday was really important. We now face a big December and must start turning draws into wins to help us climb the table."

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