IRISH LEAGUE: Sean O’Neill hails Crusaders never say die attitude

Crusaders David Cushley celebrates with Richard Clarke
Crusaders David Cushley celebrates with Richard Clarke

Sean O’Neill hailed another big result as Crusaders left it late to claim victory at Dungannon.

David Cushley secured the points with an 85th minute goal. It was the second match in a row that the midfielder had come up trumps for the Crues, after his stoppage time strike against Ards seven days earlier.

O’Neill also played his part with another clean sheet - his fifth in six league games.

The goalkeeper, a former Dungannon player, felt they did enough to win.

“It was a tough game but I thought we edged it,” he said.

The game was heading for stalemate when Cushley, an 80th minute substitute, provided the breakthrough.

It started when a free-kick was awarded about 30 yards from goal.

Cushley sized up the opportunity, aimed for goal and executed it perfectly, with his powerful left-foot drive flashing past the goalkeeper.

O’Neill added: “He’s a great striker of the ball and we knew when he came to the club that he had that ability. It was a really good strike and it was one that we needed, because this was a great three points for us.”

The Crues - and Cushley - have made a habit of scoring late goals this term.

He did it the previous week against Ards.

And he scored twice in stoppage time in a 4-3 victory over Cliftonville back in October.

O’Neill praised the Crues’ willingness to battle to the end.

“We’ve got a never-say-die attitude at this club, and that is instilled by the manager,” he added.

“He wants everything from his players and he wants it for 95 minutes.

“There’s an old cliche about it being a 90-minute game. He expects 95 good minutes.”

The Crues remain seven points clear at the summit.

But boss Stephen Baxter is mindful that his side now face a tough run of games, starting against Glentoran this weekend.

He was impressed with his players’ professionalism against Dungannon.

Baxter said their second half performance had been “stunning”.

“We restricted Dungannon to no shots on target and they weren’t in our box the whole half,” he said.

“We were knocking the door non-stop.

“When you put people under that amount of sustained pressure, something will open up for you.”

But this was a massively disappointing way for Dungannon to lose.

They have won just one of their last seven league matches.

Boss Rodney McAree still found cause for optimism in his side’s battling display.

Two weeks ago they lost 4-0 against Linfield, but here the Swifts were much improved.

McAree said: “There was more fight in us - we showed a greater attitude and a greater desire to get something from the game. We have to try and pick the positives from today’s match and try and move on.

“We’ve a very tough game at Glenavon next Friday night and we have to be ready.”