IRISH LEAGUE: Stephen Baxter hails history makers Crusaders

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates his side retaining the Danske Bank Premiership title
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates his side retaining the Danske Bank Premiership title

Stephen Baxter hailed his history makers as Crusaders clinched the Danske Bank Premiership title in style on Tuesday night.

Goals from Gavin Whyte and Paul Heatley (2) sealed a 3-1 win against north Belfast derby rivals Cliftonville at Solitude.

It keeps the Crues eight points clear at the top of the table with just two games left.

And despite speculation persisting over the final outcome of Portadown’s disciplinary appeal – which could potentially see a redistribution of points in the Premiership – Crusaders celebrated back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s 118-year history.

“The players were amazing tonight – amazing,” Baxter beamed.

“Defending the title has proved a massive challenge, and we had to grind out some results in the second half of the season.

“But these players fought tooth and nail and they got their rewards.

“We came back stronger and stronger as the season progressed, and we have managed to get over the line tonight.

“It is a very proud moment for the club.”

Baxter admitted the celebrations had already started following last night’s success.

“I have told the players to go out and celebrate tonight – they deserve to,” he added.

“They have worked so hard over the last 10 months, from the European games to now.

“It was a fantastic performance tonight. We could have scored six or seven goals.

“We set our standards incredibly high, and we will raise them even further next season and beyond.

“That’s what you have to do to win titles. We build squads we believe can do it, and I have great players at Crusaders Football Club.

“They deserve immense credit for retaining the title,” he added.