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Victory over Warrenpoint but Baxter on the look out for a new year sale as injuries mount at Crusaders

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Paul Heatley celebrates scoring (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

Paul Heatley celebrates scoring (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Paul Heatley celebrates scoring (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter admitted he may have to go shopping in the January sales after injuries took some of the shine off this sparkling 4-0 win over Warrenpoint Town.

Paul Heatley produced a stunning second-half 10-minute hat-trick and, while his knee injury late in the game may not be significant, Ross Clarke and Aidan Wilson will need to spend some time in the treatment room.

The Crues have a strong squad but Baxter is wary of further knocks during a congested fixture schedule.

"Paul took a kick to the knee and it will be sore but hopefully it's not overly serious," he said.

"We are more worried about Clarkey who has a thigh strain and that's a four-to-six-week job.

"Aidan comes out of the game with a groin injury which can be a three-or-four-week job and Gary Thompson hurt himself badly in training with a strain during the week.

"All of a sudden, you are without three or four players for a few weeks and that leaves you up against it, especially if you lose more players.

"You need a big squad and we might have to visit the transfer market if we feel it necessary."

On his side's performance, Baxter said he was more satisfied with the first-half showing.

"We scored a wonderful goal and missed a few sitters which disappointed me," he added. "I said to the boys, 'You can't afford to have that amount of possession, quality, drive into the box and not finish the chances'. In the second half, we took the chances and finished the job but Warrenpoint created chances too, came here and played and Barry (Gray) has the team playing very well."

Warrenpoint were hard working and well drilled but they were floored by a sweet move in the 21st minute when Billy Joe Burns floated in a cross, Heatley headed the ball down to Philip Lowry and the midfielder's cut back was drilled home by Adam Lecky.

Heatley turned away in frustration in the 56th minute when he struck the base of the post following a neat one-two with Lecky. McGonigle then dragged a shot wide as the Crues searched for that crucial second.

They almost paid a heavy price when Fra McCaffrey surged clear on 65 minutes but then lifted his effort wide of the post.

The hosts took full advantage of that let-off six minutes later when Lowry poked the ball to Heatley and the 33-year-old gave Andy Coleman no chance with a stunning volley.

On 76 minutes, Heatley hammered his second into the roof of the net, converting following Declan Caddell's strike which drifted across the penalty area.

Heatley then superbly controlled Burns' pass, sprinted forward and lashed the ball home to seal his hat-trick.

Town boss Barry Gray said: "I don't like making excuses, we underperformed and we didn't look as solid and organised as we normally do but we didn't have a first-choice keeper, centre-half and right-back as well as other alterations we had to make.

"The players had some time off and this felt like a pre-season game without the fans. It didn't feel like a competitive game and we were more disjointed than we had been this season."

Sunday Life


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