Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter forced to make changes for Warrenpoint Town clash

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter

Manager Stephen Baxter is forced to reshuffle his Crusaders deck for Saturday’s clash against Warrenpoint Town at Seaview.

The Danske Premiership champions are beginning to move up the gears as their title defence gathers momentum, but they’ll be without two key players against Barry Gray’s basement strugglers.

Hot striker Paul Heatley and midfielder, Jordan Forsythe, signed over the summer from Bangor, begin a two match ban. The electric heeled Gavin Whyte will also be missing after being called into the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad.

On the plus side, skipper Colin Coates returns to the panel after sitting out a one match suspension following his dismissal against Carrick a fortnight ago.

“Yes, we are missing a few which is a big blow,” said Baxter. “But if you get sent off you have to do the time. Heatley has been doing particularly well of late, while Jordan scored his first goal for the club last week.

“But it opens the door for some of the players who have been sitting on the bench. The likes of Dairmuid O’Carroll, Barry Molloy, Stephen O’Flynn and Michael Carvill will come into the reckoning.

“We’ve been ticking along nicely. Since the win over the Blues a few weeks back, there’s been a real feel-good factor about the place. It’s important to keep that going.”

Warrenpoint fell to their eighth defeat of the campaign at Coleraine last week, but manager Barry Gray believes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“We didn’t do an awful lot wrong at Coleraine last week,” he said. “The team is low in confidence . . . that comes with position in the league table. We shipped a couple of sloppy goals which was frustrating. But the signs have been good over the past couple of games.

“We’ve now another massive task on our hands against Crusaders.”

“So it’s all uphill. We basically need a little break . . . a wee change of luck to turn things for us.

“And, the reality is, our survival in this league will not be based on results against Crusaders or any of the top two or three. We need to start taking points off teams around us in the table.”