Glenavon v Crusaders: Stephen Baxter laughs off early talk of ‘crisis’

Crues manager Stephen Baxter
Crues manager Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter offered a wry smile when the word ‘crisis’ was associated with Crusaders’ start to the season.

The champions lost their Premiership opener against Portadown before claiming a 2-2 draw against 10-man Glentoran.

Baxter’s players finally kick-started their title defence with a 5-0 rout of Ballinamallard Town last Saturday.

“Crisis? I hadn’t heard anything like that,” Baxter said of Crusaders’ opening two games.

“Yes, we didn’t win our first two games. Last season we struggled in our first few fixtures and we won the league.

“We have a very capable squad here and we demand very high standards, and they work very hard.

“Colin Coates has had an illness, but he was more like himself against Ballinamallard. You need your key men available.

“We have lost Declan Caddell for a couple of months which isn’t good, but we have Barry Molloy nearing a return.

“He has been training for two or three weeks, so it has been a big build-up for him since his operation on his ankle.

“Michael Carvill was out for a couple of weeks and we rushed him back at The Oval, but he is not 100 per cent fit. You will see teams still finding their feet in the opening few weeks. It takes six weeks to get into the swing of things.

“I thought Paul Heatley was quiet last Saturday and he scored two goals.

“We are one of the teams that will be in there competing. We will continue working hard.”

One player who continues to shine at Seaview is striker Jordan Owens.

Owens claimed a clinical double against the Mallards last week, and Baxter says he wouldn’t swap the 26-year-old for anyone else in the Premiership.

“He is improving all the while. He is still young and we are always working on things with Jordan. He can improve,” Baxter said.

“Would I swap him for anyone? No. I thought the first half with Diarmuid (O’Carroll) last Saturday was magnificent.