IRISH LEAGUE: Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders boys ready for another big test

Stephen Baxter. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Stephen Baxter. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

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Stephen Baxter is not one to push the panic button.

Although his boys' Danske Premiership title defence push was blunted sightly last weekend when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Glentoran, the Crues boss can afford to smile.

Even ahead of the hectic festive fixture list, the Crues still enjoy a five-point cushion over nearest challengers Linfield at the top of the table.

But Baxter knows that nothing other than three points against Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park tomorrow will be good enough for the back-to-back champions.

"We have been grinding out results in recent weeks even though we haven't been firing on all cylinders, so that has the makings of a good team," he said.

"There is no doubt we have a few gears left in us. In saying that, I was absolutely thrilled with our performance against Glentoran.

"I counted 10 good opportunities we created. We scored two and Elliott Morris saved eight,” he added.

"It was one of those games we could have won four times over.”

Baxter admits that his lads will face another big test in County Fermanagh, adding: "We never get it easy at Ballinamallard. I have huge respect for Gavin Dykes and what he is doing at the club.

“He's building a new team and, although their results have been hot and cold, they have players capable of competing with the best in the league."

United boss Dykes said: "We are coming off the back of a positive result at Ards, where we scored three goals. It's important we build on that."