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Baxter left beaming as Crusaders produce blistering second half to swipe aside Swifts and maintain momentum

 

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Ben Kennedy celebrates slotting home his spot kick

Ben Kennedy celebrates slotting home his spot kick

Ben Kennedy celebrates slotting home his spot kick

Crusaders needed to turn on the power in the second half to see off a spirited Dungannon Swifts challenge at Seaview.

In a game which featured three penalties, the Crues needed to dig deep after the Swifts played with real purpose and intensity from the start.

The visitors had a spot-kick saved by Sean O'Neill early in the contest, but the north Belfast side were much more clinical from the spot, with Ben Kennedy grabbing two in the second-half to secure victory.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter admitted his side needed to find another gear after the interval.

"Our first-half performance was not as good as I would have liked," he said.

"We weren't on it until late in the first-half and we scored against the run of play. They passed it well and we knew they would do that. We needed to adjust and I felt their penalty was correct.

"We had to step it up, and I felt our second-half performance was blistering. I thought we were amazing then, showing real quality and we got the goals.

"We created chances and were brilliant in the second-half. Philip Lowry was comfortably man of the match.

"Our penalties looked handball and the referees are there to make those calls."

The Crues, who announced the signing of Robbie Weir on a pre-contract deal before kick off, were soon on the ropes after a powerful start from the visitors.

They needed O'Neill to spring to the rescue in the sixth minute when he pushed away Douglas Wilson's penalty after Rodney Brown had chopped down Rhyss Campbell.

The stunned Crues looked for a quick response, but attempts from Chris Hegarty and Adam Lecky were blocked before Jamie McGonigle dragged his shot well wide.

The former Coleraine man did find the bottom corner of the net on 17 minutes, however; providing a ruthless finish after Lowry's clever header.

The Swifts continued to look a threat going forward and, when presented with a free-kick 25 yards out, Wilson stepped up and slotted a delicious strike beyond O'Neill.

He attempted to repeat the trick from a similar position four minutes before half-time but his effort flew over the top.

Lowry's glancing header from Jordan Forsythe's free-kick drifted wide as neither side could edge ahead before the interval.

The Crues needed some luck and it arrived two minutes after the restart when referee Andrew Davey spotted a handball from Oisin Smyth and Kennedy's penalty went in off the post.

In the 59th minute, Kennedy slammed home the game's third spot kick after another handball by Michael Carvill was penalised following Rory Hale's cross.

The Swifts didn't throw in the towel, though, as O'Neill needed to palm away Campbell's drive.

"I thought we were excellent for vast spells of the game but goals change games," said Swifts boss Kris Lindsay.

"Their confidence grew when they got their penalties and we got a bit sloppy. Overall, I can't be despondent. The boys were excellent and sometimes you don't get what you deserve from your performance. It was one of those days.

"It was a good performance, we are playing with energy and pace and we must keep doing that."

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