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Baxter happy to begin campaign with all three points as Crusaders pushed all the way by resilient Warrenpoint

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Stephen Baxter saw his side scrape to a 1-0 win at Milltown

Stephen Baxter saw his side scrape to a 1-0 win at Milltown

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Stephen Baxter saw his side scrape to a 1-0 win at Milltown

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter hailed a couple of his old stagers after starting the season with a seriously hard fought victory at Milltown.

Impressed by a new-look Warrenpoint Town, Baxter was overjoyed to collect three points courtesy of a fine Paul Heatley strike from Gary Thompson's super pass just nine minutes in.

Baxter - who saw Billy Joe Burns red-carded in the 90th minute for a crude challenge on Ryan Swan - was full of praise for the efforts of his goalscorer and another experienced campaigner, Jordan Owens, with both showing they still have plenty to offer in the Crues' quest for glory.

Heatley and Owens have been there and done it multiple times and are ready to go again.

Baxter said: "I knew the match would be hard fought and we prepared all week for that type of game. We knew Warrenpoint's new players and their quality and that they would be much improved and better organised and I wasn't wrong.

"It was important for us to get the points to start the season well and we set our shape up to get the win. There was a good balance to our game. Our back four defended well, we were very competitive in midfield and we had life about us up front with Paul Heatley and Ross Clarke and I thought Jordan Owens was fantastic.

"The work rate from Jordan and his desire was magnificent and Paul's finish was total class. Jordan and Paul are still massive for us. We have a huge campaign ahead of us and we need their quality and the quality that we have in our squad."

Chances were few and far between in a tight contest with Warrenpoint having a penalty claim in the second half when Luke Gallagher went down in the box. Town boss Barry Gray said: "We question their goal strongly for offside and were unlucky to lose. I don't ever remember a Crusaders team coming to this ground before and trying to run down the clock with 15 minutes to go.

"Despite the defeat, we are upbeat about our performance. I thought we did really well against a top team and can move forward in a positive frame of mind."

Sunday Life