Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter has played down his side’s ‘favourites’ tag ahead of Wednesday’s County Antrim Shield semi-final clash with Ballymena United.
The Crues are 4/9 jollies to see off the Sky Blues at Seaview (7.45pm).
Ballymena’s hopes of defending the Shield have also been hit with a defensive injury crisis.
Goalkeeper Dwayne Nelson and defenders Johnny Taylor, Stephen McBride and Michael Ruddy are all out.
Mark McCullagh is also doubtful after requiring stitches for an eye injury sustained in Saturday’s league defeat to Linfield.
Despite statistics and form favouring his side, Baxter is under no illusions.
“I don’t buy into this theory that Ballymena will be underdogs. This is a semi-final and Ballymena won’t be coming to Seaview to lie down,” he said.
“They are the holders and will be determined to retain their trophy. We are only too aware of the threat they pose.
“Ballymena also beat us at Seaview back in August, so we know what they are capable of.”
Ballymena boss Glenn Ferguson believes his side have it all to do on the Shore Road, but insists they are determined to retain the Shield following their success last year.
“Playing Crusaders is difficult enough with all your best players, so Tuesday night will be a big test with the injuries we have,” he said.
“But it offers others the opportunity to come in.”
Crusaders are missing strikers Timmy Adamson (hamstring) and Gary McCutcheon (dead leg).