Stephen Baxter backing Crusaders to rise to the occasion

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter does not believe that the 4-0 defeat to Cliftonville in last year’s League Cup Final will have an impact on this year’s decider.

Last season the Crues were hammered 4-0 by Tommy Breslin’s men at Windsor Park, as the rampant Reds claimed the trophy.

This year, Baxter expects a better display at Solitude, against the same opponents.

He said: “In a cup final you want to do as well as you possibly can, and when you let yourself down like we let ourselves down last year, then it will be mentioned.

“It’s just part of your preparation, because you can’t get away from it. But do I think it will have an impact on this year’s final? Not at all.

“A lot has changed in a year, and we’ve played each other a number of times since, so we just have to remember what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The Crues will face a Cliftonville side who have lost their last two games. Reds’ boss Tommy Breslin believes the WASP League Cup final is an ideal opportunity for his side to get back to their best.

“We haven’t become a bad team overnight, we’ve just dropped certain percentages all across the field, and maybe that includes myself and my coaching staff.

“We need to get our mojo back. We need to get our identity back. We need to get back to our previous levels. For me, we’ve been a shadow of what we were last season and that’s not good enough.”

Despite the pressure of hosting a cup final against your biggest rivals at your own ground, Breslin says he wants his players to enjoy the occasion.

“People play football to get into cup final, so why not enjoy the occasion? That’s the message I will be giving to my players on Saturday.

“Obviously there is a certain amount of pressure, but I think it’s more of an opportunity. I think it’s a great chance to for the players to go out and showcase their abilities.”