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Never mind the top three, there's a magnificent seven still in the mix for Premiership title, insists Baxter



Battle ready: Stephen Baxter expects a tough test from Carrick

Battle ready: Stephen Baxter expects a tough test from Carrick

Battle ready: Stephen Baxter expects a tough test from Carrick

Stephen Baxter believes the title race remains wide open and insists it is not just his Crusaders team, Linfield and Larne involved in the battle for the Danske Bank Premiership.

Approaching tomorrow's league game at home to Carrick Rangers, the Crues are in third, eight points adrift of leaders Linfield and three behind Larne. Below the Seaview outfit are Coleraine, Cliftonville, Ballymena United and Glentoran - and Baxter feels all seven still have a chance to be top come May.

He says: "If Coleraine win their game in hand, they are level with us, if Ballymena win their two games in hand they are a point behind us and if Glentoran win theirs, they will be three points adrift of us.

"Cliftonville are in there too, and then, of course, you have ourselves, Larne and Linfield in the top positions at present. There are so many good sides in the league and that's just mentioning the top seven. All the other sides are capable of beating anyone else on any given day. The competition is incredible this season.

"We have to hang in there and see where it takes us because there is a long way to go. Obviously Linfield and Larne have that bit of an advantage but any of the teams below them can put a good run together and climb the table."

With Tuesday night's match at Dungannon postponed due to the weather, the Crues enter the clash against Carrick on the back of a 2-1 defeat at home to Linfield when the Blues were outplayed for large periods by Baxter's men.

The champions also found the going tough at Carrick in midweek, with Niall Currie's side unlucky only to draw 1-1.

"I watched Carrick Rangers twice on Tuesday. I watched them in the afternoon against Dungannon because we were due to play Dungannon that night and then, when that match was called off, I watched them in the evening on television versus Linfield," explained Baxter.

"Niall Currie is a visionary. He is a good, solid guy and someone I have immense time for.

"He knows the game and has excellent ideas about setting a team up and structuring it, no matter who he is playing.

"He has great experience, so I always expect tough games from any side managed by Niall, and that will be no different on Saturday.

"It didn't surprise me the way Carrick played against Linfield and they may have been unlucky not to win it at the end. They will be confident on the back of that and we will have to be on our toes.

"We were encouraged by how we played away to Coleraine and at home to Linfield despite losing both.

"I'm looking for our standards to continue and I have told the players if we keep playing to that level, we will win more than we lose."

Belfast Telegraph

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