IRISH LEAGUE: Stephen Baxter insists Crusaders ‘still have work to do’

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter
Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter insists Crusaders still have work to do before they can start celebrating another Danske Bank Premiership title.

The reigning champions strengthened their grip on the Gibson Cup with last week’s late win against nearest rivals Linfield.

Goals from Gavin Whyte and Jordan Forsythe sealed a spirited 2-0 victory, and saw the Crues extend their lead at the top to eight points.

With four games remaining the Shore Road men stand on the cusp of greatness as they try to claim back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history.

Victory on Saturday against Glenavon could seal the deal, but only if Linfield fail to beat Coleraine at Windsor Park.

“We are obviously in a very good position, and we are delighted with that. But there is work to be done,” Baxter said.

“Nothing is decided yet. We won’t be getting ahead of ourselves. We have to stay focused on what we’re trying to achieve.

“The players know we have to back up last week’s win over Linfield. It’s crucial we maintain our momentum and take something from the game against Glenavon.

“We’re that little bit closer now and to beat Linfield was a big result because it leaves us eight points clear, but we know we have to kick on. We have to go to Glenavon with a gameplan and produce another high intensity performance.”

Baxter hailed the performance of his players in the face of intense pressure last week as they saw off Linfield.

The Crues weathered a second half storm from the Blues before Whyte nudged them ahead in the 89th minute.

Forsythe added a sublime second in injury time to complete the win, and inch the club one step closer to another Premiership title.

“The players were outstanding across the pitch. They stood up and were counted,” Baxter added.

“I always felt the game would be decided on fine margins and a knife edge.

“Linfield threw everything at us in the second half, but we stood tall defensively.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s clash with Glenavon – who defeated Crusaders 4-3 in a thrilling Irish Cup tie on April 1 – Baxter added: “Mourneview Park is a tough place to go and while they lost to Cliftonville last week, Glenavon have been playing really well. They have top players who can hurt you, so we’re under no illusions. It’ll be another huge challenge.”

Meanwhile, Linfield will look to prolong the title race when they entertain Coleraine on Saturday, while third-placed Cliftonville host Glentoran.

In Section B basement club Warrenpoint Town travel to Ballinamallard United, while Portadown entertain Dungannon Swifts.

Elsewhere, Ballymena United travel to Carrick.