Institute manager Paddy McLaughlin expects tough test as Crusaders visit Brandywell

Institute manager Paddy McLaughlin
Institute manager Paddy McLaughlin
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Institute will host defending Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders on Saturday afternoon at the Brandywell wondering what the Crues will bring to the party.

Stephen Baxter’s men have not made the start that they and many others would have expected this season.

The Crues sit seventh in the league standings and have only won three of their opening eight league games, while losing four.

These are not the stats that Stute boss Paddy McLaughlin would have expected from the Shore Road outfit and he is wary of a backlash from Baxter’s troops.

“They are the champions and they have been the top side over the last few years,” he said.

“It’s uncharacteristic for them to be conceding soft goals because they have quality defenders.

“I would say Stephen Baxter is relaxed about things at the minute because he trusts his players to turn things around.

“They are more than capable of beating any team in this league, and he won’t be panicking because he knows his players are as good as there is in the division.

“We’ve gone a few weeks now without getting any points on the board, which is a bit disappointing, but the performances have been really good.

“It would be nice to back up a good performance with a result.”

And McLaughlin says they have to get back to winning ways as soon as possible after losing their last three encounters.

“We got off to a really good start with a couple of wins at home.

“It was important that we did that because we know how tough it is going to be coming up from the Championship.

“We spoke to the boys in preseason and told them that our home form will be crucial to us surviving in this division.

“We’ve played some of the bigger sides recently and we have seen how good the players are, particularly the front men.”

McLaughlin says Michael McCrudden has been the outstanding performer for his side before the visit of Crusaders.

“Michael McCrudden has hit the ground running, which is brilliant for us.

“We know ourselves it’s going to be tough to compete against some of the best teams in the country, but Michael helps us do that not just as a captain, but also as a player out on the pitch.

“It’s fantastic for us because we’re going to need that.

“The whole squad deserves a lot of credit though as they are a very young team and they have met the challenge full on.”

And the Institute manager says they will use the hardships of the last few months to galvanise his squad together.

“So many things happened so early on when I took over.

“We got to play one on the pitch and then it was totally wiped out.

“We had no ground, we had no training facilities, we didn’t even have a ball to train with,” he added.

“To start from scratch two weeks into the job was a big ask, not just for me but for the players too.

“But we all stuck together and it brought us closer together.

“There’s a unique bond there now between the players having come through all that and then getting promoted, it’s unique.”