Crues talk it out as title race heats up

Stephen Baxter and his Crusaders team had a long chat after Saturday's defeat at Coleraine.

Monday, 27th March 2017, 7:08 am
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:17 pm
Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter pictured during Saturday's game at the Coleraine showgrounds. Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press

The reigning champions were visibly disappointed as they lost 1-0 at The Showgrounds, in a defeat which opened up the title race again.

It was a full half hour after the game before anyone emerged from the visitors’ dressing room.

Baxter didn’t go into detail about the nature of the discussion, he simply said it was an ‘honest conversation’.

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“It’s not really for me to come and tell the media what we were talking about in our dressing room,” he said.

“We are bitterly disappointed to lose a football match, we have honest conversations with each other, you have to say what’s in your heart, they know that and expect that.

“The players did a lot of talking really, I didn’t start it.

“They are honest individuals, we know we haven’t performed well here today.

“We didn’t deal with the conditions of the lively pitch and we ran out of ideas.

“But you have to tip your hat to Coleraine. The shape they have, the way they work for each other, the amount of effort they put in to keep us out, the goalkeeper who gets named man of the match.

“So while we haven’t done what we normally do they did what they had to do particularly well and I always tip my hat to people who do well.”

The Crues now have a two week break before a mouth-watering clash with nearest challengers Linfield.

“I think it’s fantastic when we get massive games in this country, ones which everyone is interested and and want to come to,” said Baxter.

“It will be a very big game of football when it comes around.

“We haven’t been successful in five games against them this season so that will buoy them I’m sure.

“I’ve been in this game too long to worry about how results are shaped up.

“We will get on with it and look forward to it. We had to handle the pressure of it last year and we got through.

“If Linfield beat us it will go down to one point and get even hairier for everybody, but hey ho that’s football.

“This is when we find the leaders. These guys have been together for a long time and they have experience of all this.

“Last season we lost the Irish Cup semi final then went on to beat Linfield the following week and win the title.

“To win a title is a very difficult thing, you have to roll your sleeves up and get on with it.

“Nothing is handed to you in football, but we will fight for every point.

“There’s a wee bit to go in this championship, and while we are disappointed today we are still sitting with a four point lead and we shouldn’t be sitting trying to defend it we should be trying to win it.”

Crusaders were the latest team to fail to stop the Coleraine juggernaut.

They have now gone 14 games unbeaten and boss Oran Kearney is delighted to see his young charges riding high.

Eoin Bradley’s 15th minute penalty was enough to seal the win for the home side, who were good value for their victory.

“A couple of years ago we approached games like this by going 4-5-1 and sitting in then hitting teams on the break,” he said.

“We have learnt, in this season in particular, to go and fight fire with fire.

“We had a real go today and for big parts of the game we more than held our own.

“I thought our energy levels across the pitch over the 90 minutes was fantastic.

“To beat the champions on any day you have to be right up there because you know what they will bring to all aspects of the game.

“It was a tough game but we produced a fantastic performance and a great result.”