Skipper Colin Coates returns to the Crusaders squad for Saturday’s mouth-watering clash against Glenavon at Seaview.
The 29-year-old returns from suspension and will be part of a “full-strength” panel for what could be a challenging afternoon for Stephen Baxter’s Danske Bank Premiership champions.
They lost their place at the top of the table last weekend following their last gasp draw at Ballinmallard, but Baxter admits he was happy ‘going down the road’ with a point.
“We scored late on, so we have to be pleased,” he said. “We had loads of the ball –loads of possession, but they defended resolutely.
“Ballinamallard were set up well and they got the breakthrough – they were difficult opponents to break down. But we kept at it and were rewarded a few minutes form the finish with Dairmuid O’Carroll grabbing the equaliser.”
Baxter admits Glenavon will pose another big test in north Belfast.
“At the beginning of the season, I tipped them for a top four spot – and even predicted they could push for the title,” added Baxter.
“They have proved me correct, thus far. They have been banging in the goals and have a striker in form, with Eoin Bradley on the score sheet on a regular basis.
“But they have danger men all over the park, so we’ll need to be at our best. What makes his league so intriguing is that every team is capable of beating the other on any given day.”
“That’s why I never underestimate any side – you just don’t know what you are going to come up against.”
Baxter added he will speak to his boys in terms of their physical approach as Lithuanian officials are due to take charge of the game.
“It’s part of the IFA’s exchange programme,” added Baxter. “The Irish League is a tough physical league, so it will be interesting to see what way they view it and how they handle it.
“We’ve Colin (Coates) coming back after suspension, so we probably have a full squad available.”