IRISH CUP: Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter refuses to be distracted by ‘double’ talk

Carrick's Brian McCaul  in action with Crusaders' Mathew Snoddy
Carrick's Brian McCaul in action with Crusaders' Mathew Snoddy

History repeated itself at the weekend as Crusaders eased past Carrick in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup.

Saturday’s 3-0 win over nine-man Rangers came 12 months after the Crues knocked out the same opposition at exactly the same stage of the competition.

And not for the first time this season, Paul Heatley came back to haunt his former club, scoring twice and setting up the other for Diarmuid O’Carroll.

The goals arrived before Gers defender Aaron Smyth received a straight red, while his team-mate Brian McCaul was also given his marching orders after two yellows.

With goalkeeper Brian Neeson unavailable, Carrick handed a debut to teenager Ryan Morrell.

The rookie stopper hardly put a foot wrong but such is the class in the Crues’ ranks, he had pick the ball out of the net on three occasions.

The Crues are still on for the double, but they have Glenavon standing in their way in what promises to be an intriguing semi-final at Windsor Park.

“The Cup is something that we all look forward to. It’s a big thing in our calendar in this country and we all want to be there. We need to stay focused,” said Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter.

“From my point of view it’s about making sure the boys stay in the moment.

“We have big league games coming up in the next three weeks and we have to step aside from the Cup and concentrate on our league performances.”

In the other half of the draw Linfield are on their own patch against Lurgan Celtic.

Asked how he felt about the games being staged at the National Stadium, Baxter said: “I don’t know that Linfield should have home advantage, if that’s the way it’s going to be. So I think we’ll have something to say about that.”

Reflecting on the win over Carrick, Baxter added: “Today, for me was about getting through this tie and putting ourselves in another semi-final.

“Sometimes the manner of the performance doesn’t matter in these sort of games, it’s just about trying to make sure you’re in the next round. But I thought we got the performance as well.

“Really, we looked good. We opened the Carrick defence up time after time and we probably should have had some more goals.”