IRISH LEAGUE: Baxter slams Crusaders red card as ‘embarrassment’

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter looks on as Paul Heatley leaves the pitch following his red card. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter looks on as Paul Heatley leaves the pitch following his red card. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter fumed at what he called an ‘embarrassment’ of a sending-off during last night’s County Antrim Shield final.

Paul Heatley was dismissed on the half-hour mark after catching Linfield defender Mark Stafford with a supposed flailing hand. Baxter, however, didn’t agree with referee Mervyn Smyth.

“We had a sending off that was an embarrassment to our local game,” he said.

“The contact was at waist height, somebody backing up, which you do. It’s absolutely embarrassing. Mark Stafford and Callacher are warriors of centre-halves who go up against Jordan Owens and the likes with everything that they have. I’m a big fan of both of them but to go down in that manner, come on.”

Baxter also hinted that his players could be coming in for greater scrutiny.

“We’ve had trial by television of our players all season, highlighting things,” he said.

“It’s a media circus around some of our players, slowing down tackles and the like. I see horror tackles every week from other clubs, do I ever hear anything about them? Not once.

“So a flailing hand he’s given and sent Paul Heatley off? He should be ashamed of himself.”

Linfield manager David Healy, however, reckoned referee Smyth could have brandished more red cards.

He said: “(Michael) Carvill should have been sent off. Kirk Millar was booked 30 seconds earlier for the exact same tackle. It was a cup final, maybe the referee didn’t want to send them down to nine men but it’s a second yellow card in any game of football.

“And if he had sent Carvill off, he could have sent Cameron Stewart off for the exact same thing in the second half.”

On the pitch, Baxter admitted that the Blues were worthy winners.

He said: “Linfield deserved to win because they got the two (early) goals. It’s hard to come back when you’re 2-0 down and down to 10 men.

“For 20 minutes pre-half-time we were superb. We had them rocking and got our goal. From half-time to 80 minutes we had them rocking. We committed a bit of harry-carry for the penalty, which I don’t believe was a penalty kick either.”

“Our performance was superb and I’m proud of every one of our players.”