Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter may tinker with his squad before Glenavon clash

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter hinted he may again tinker with his squad ahead of Friday night’s Danske Premiership showdown with Glenavon at Seaview.

The Shore Road are coming off the back of an impressive Irish Cup win at Dungannon, but admits they’ll need to be at their best to stop a free-scoring Lurgan Blues team, who have bagged nine in their last two games.

“We’ve more or less a full strength panel, so we are all good to go,” said Baxter. “We had to adjusted a little bit last weekend due to the fact that Craig McLean was suspended.

“Billy Joe Burns moved to left back while Andrew Mitchell came in on the right. And, he managed to get forward to pinch himself a goal.

“Craig comes back into the squad, so it gives me a few options. I was really pleased with the performance at Dungannon . . . we were well worth our win.”

Baxter, however, is expecting something totally different when Gary Hamilton’s boys leave a calling card at Seaview tonight.

“Well, we know what to expect,” he added. “They’ve been scoring for fun, hitting Carrick for five and four at the Oval last weekend.

“We know all about them . . . they have players that can hurt you . . . Braniff, Bradley and Kearns.

“But for me, they signed a top goalkeeper in Johnny Tuffey and he has really been a big hit since his move.

“He has brought great experience at the back.

“They have an exceptionally talented group and are really for form team.

“But we are not bad either. I couldn’t ask for any more of my guys.”

Although we lost Stephen O’Flynn to Ballinamallard, we still have healthy competition for places.

“Declan Caddell and Matthew Snoddy have been doing well in midfield of late which means that the likes of Richard Clarke has had to bide his time on the bench. Dairmuid O’Carroll is also a great talent, but he too has had to be patient, waiting on his chance.”

Baxter admits that flying winger Gavin Whyte’s season has been stop-start, so far.

“He has been plagued by a few niggling injuries,” he added. “He still has yet to find his best form. Off the pitch, he as recently became a father, so there is a lot going on in his life at the minute.”