Crsuaders boss Stephen Baxter taking nothing for granted in Irish Cup

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders chief Stephen Baxter shrugs off the theory that his team are now the bookmakers’ favourites to land the Irish Cup.

The Shore Road boys have the chance to harden the odds when they face Ballyclare Comrades in the quarter-final at Seaview on Saturday, but Baxter insists he will be taking nothing for granted against the Championship 1 side.

“I took the opportunity to watch Ballyclare last week against H&W Welders and I seen a very committed hard-working team,” said Baxter.

“They are dangerous going forward and have former Ballymena defender Denver Gage keeping things tight at the back.

“We’ve prepared for this game the same way if it was Linfield or Cliftonville. Nothing will be left to chance.

“If you take your eye off the ball, you could end up with egg on your face. The bookies may be making us cup favourites, but we simply take one game at a time. We’ll be giving his game our full focus.”

With progression in the Setanta Cup now looking bleak – they lost heavily to Sligo Rovers in Monday night’s quarter first leg tie – the Irish Cup has now become a prime target for the Crues.

“It’s a tournament that has been good to us in recent seasons,” added Baxter. “Yes we desperately want to book a semi final spot, but we have some big games now coming thick and fast.

“After the Ballyclare match, we face Linfield in the Shield final on Tuesday night. Every game is now a challenge and we must utilise the squad the best we can.

“I made a number of changes for the Sligo match. There was no question of not taking the tournament seriously. Basically, we have players carrying injuries and I didn’t want to risk them. We are approaching a crucial stage of the season and we need our big players available.”