Stephen Baxter insists players are under ‘no added pressure’

Chris Morrow is struggling with an ankle injury
Chris Morrow is struggling with an ankle injury

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter insists there is no extra pressure being heaped on his players following a frustrating festive period.

The Crues picked up just three points from a possible 12 over Christmas.

Three draws and a defeat – against Ballymena United – saw Baxter’s side relinquish top spot in the Danske Bank Premiership.

They now trail leaders Linfield by nine points going into Monday’s Sky Sports clash with Dungannon Swifts at Seaview.

“We had three draws with Glentoran, Cliftonville and Portadown, and the defeat to Ballymena United – all sides in the top six,” Baxter said.

“It has been a tricky schedule for us, and people might say we have only picked up three points, but we are enjoying it.

“There is no pressure on the players. I just ask them to go express themselves and play with a smile on their faces, and they have been doing that this season.

“We have moved on from the festive fixtures and we have a lot more big games coming up – starting with Dungannon Swifts on Monday night.”

Baxter is under no illusions going into Monday’s clash with Dungannon – a side who have already claimed a draw at Seaview earlier this season.

“They got a draw here, and we beat them at Stangmore Park. So we know how good they are,” the Crues boss added.

“Darren Murphy has a well-drilled side and they will hold no fear coming to Seaview.

“We just have to look after ourselves and try and get three points.”

Crusaders have major doubts over influential duo Colin Coates and Chris Morrow.

Both were forced off with ankle injuries during last week’s game with Portadown.

“Both are major doubts. Chris needed an X-ray, but there is no break. But he is a big doubt for Monday,” Baxter said.