There were no complaints from either manager as Saturday’s showdown between Linfield and Crusaders ended in stalemate.
Ninety minutes of attritional football witnessed no goals as the title rivals locked horns at Windsor Park.
The encounter was always going to be a tight affair as the country’s two in-form sides looked to preserve their unbeaten records.
Linfield haven’t lost since a 2-0 defeat to Crusaders back on August 24, while the Crues have now gone 13 fixtures without loss in all competitions.
Both managers seemed content with sharing the points.
Crusaders had to play over 20 minutes without midfielder Declan Caddell who was sent off for two bookable offences, while Linfield had defender Billy Joe Burns to thank for an astounding goal-line clearance to deny Jordan Owens what could have been a late winner.
“We are disappointed that we didn’t do a bit more when Crusaders were down to 10 men.
“But if you analyse the game fairly, then Billy Joe Burns made the finest goal-line clearance I have ever seen in all of my time in football,” said Blues chief David Jeffrey – whose side extended their lead at the top of the table to four points.
“He took up the position and executed what he did with agility and skill – it was remarkable.
“I said to Stephen (Baxter) at the end, it was a hard-fought game and a draw was the fair result in the end.
“What pleased me from my own point of view, is that the last time we played Crusaders we didn’t turn up. We allowed ourselves to be harassed in the game.
“Today we weren’t bullied.
“Crusaders are a very physical team, but physicality is part of the game and you have to stand up to it.”
Chances were at a premium as both sides cancelled each other out on Saturday.
Colin Coates had a goalbound header cleared off the line by Jamie Mulgrew in the 19th minute.
In the 58th minute Matt Tipton forced a superb finger tip save from Crues keeper Sean O’Neill.
Crusaders were down to 10 men in the 72nd minute when Caddell – who was booked 51st minute following a melee involving both sets of players – was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Jamie Mulgrew.
Owens had his bullet header cleared off the line by Burns in the 83rd minute while two minutes from time Niall Quinn had a low drive saved by O’Neill.
“To play the last 20 minutes with 10 players, and keep our shape, and I can’t be too annoyed with a point,” Crues boss Baxter admitted.
“We have come to Windsor to play a team who had won their last seven league games, and we could have nicked it.
“We were confident coming here, but I would have taken a point before today.
“Linfield have overpowered this level of football for over a decade, and they are on a roll at present. So it isn’t too bad.
“We have kept our unbeaten run going, and keeps us going in the right direction.
“So I have to be pleased with that.”
Reflecting on Caddell’s sending off, Baxter added: “I have no complaints over the sending off. The first booking was a bit of a scuffle, and the second was a rash challenge.
“But Declan is continuing to learn.”