IRISH LEAGUE: Baxter makes it a hat-trick of awards

Paul McLean of BetMcLean with Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter.

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter has been named BetMcLean Manager of the Month for January.

It’s the third time in a row that Baxter has won the prestigious NIFWA award, placing it alongside his November and December trophies.

The Crusaders boss said, “Winning this award means so much to me because, although it’s an individual award, it reflects the fact that the team has been doing well.

“For me to win this award three months in a row, shows that the team have been exceptional this season. It’s the players that really deserve all the credit because they are the ones that go onto the pitch every week and do the business.”

In the month of January, Crusaders recorded wins over Ballinamallard United, Maiden City, Ards, Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers. They drew with Coleraine, while their only defeat came in the semi-finals of the BetMcLean League Cup when they slipped to an extra-time defeat at the hands of Dungannon Swifts.

Baxter said, “I would like to thank the Football Writers’ for their continued and excellent coverage of the local game.

“I’d also like to thank Paul McLean. Sponsors are vital to Irish League clubs.”

NIFWA Chairman Keith Bailie said, “It’s remarkable that both Oran Kearney and Stephen Baxter have won this award, three times in a row this season.

“They battle between Crusaders and Coleraine for the Gibson Cup will be fascinating.”

Paul McLean of sponsors BetMcLean said, “Crusaders have been superb this season, so it’s no surprise that Stephen has won this award three times in a row.

“He ranks alongside the most successful managers in the history of our league.”

Meanwhile, Kirk Millar’s sublime strike against Glebe Rangers in the Fifth Round of the Irish Cup has been named January Goal of the Month by NIFWA.

Millar closed the scoring at Windsor Park with a wonderful outside of the boot effort that curled into the top corner from 25-yards.

It was Millar’s second goal in the 5-0 win.

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