Crues chief Baxter without key players for Ballymoney tie

Colin Coates is suspended for Saturday's cup tie
Colin Coates is suspended for Saturday's cup tie

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter will be without six off his established stars for Saturday’s Irish Cup sixth round clash against Ballymoney United at Seaview.

Suspended skipper Colin Coates will look on from the grandstand, along with Josh Robinson, Paul Heatley and Declan Caddell, who are all sin-biinned.

Veteran defender Paul Leeman is ruled out after breaking a bone in his hand during the League Cup final defeat by Cliftonville, while midfielder maestro Chris Morrow is being hampered by a troublesome foot injury.

“We are fortunate enough to have a good squad of 22 recognised first team players,” said Baxter. “The likes off Nathan Hanley will come in to the side – he’s been bursting to get an opportunity.

“Our new signing Richard Clarke – snapped up recently from Glentoran – will also be given a debut. We’ll also call on one or two of the young lads emerging at the club, so we are adequately equipped.

“Paul has a plaster cast on his arm. His is hoping to see the medial people next week in a bid to have a lighter cast put on, which would enable him to play.

“Chris has had this foot problem now for some time. It’s bruising around the bone, so I don’t think we’ll see him at the weekend. “

Crusaders appear to be a banker for the quarter final draw, but Baxter doesn’t see it that way.

“We’ have prepared the same way as we do for another league game – there is no question of any complacency creeping in,” he added.

“Ballymoney will be coming as underdogs with nothing to lose, the they’ll have no pressure on them. We’ve done our homework on them.

“We’ve enjoyed a certain degree of success in the Irish Cup in recent years,” he added. “We lost out at the semi final stage last season, so it would be nice to progress.

“Unfortunately, we have fallen off the pace a little bit in the Premier League, so the Irish Cup provides us with a genuine chance of lifting silverware this season.

“But we’ll certainly not be taking Ballymoney lightly.”