IRISH LEAGUE: Stephen Baxter voices relief as Crusaders claim late point at Milltown

Warrenpoint's Connor McDonald in action with Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell
Warrenpoint's Connor McDonald in action with Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell

Stephen Baxter was in no doubt that his side should be thankful for coming away with anything from Saturday’s clash at Milltown.

Diarmuid O’Carroll’s penalty deep into stoppage time saw the Shore Road men escape with a point after it looked like they would be heading for only their second league defeat away from home all season when Mark Hughes had fired the home side in front on 72 minutes.

When Crusaders defender Josh Robinson was shown a straight red card in the dying moments for taking down John McGuigan as the forward bore down on Sean O’Neill’s goal, it looked as if the game was up for the visitors.

However, Paul Heatley drew Liam Bagnall into a needless challenge inside the box two minutes into four added on at the end and O’Carroll made no mistake with an expertly taken spot kick that flew past Warrenpoint keeper Jonny Parr.

“You have to be pleased when you score with practically the last kick of the ball to get a result. We were down to ten men but I was disappointed with our performance. Our performance was poor,” admitted Baxter.

“The boys have given me everything all season but today was as poor as we’ve been.

“We didn’t pass it well. The endeavour was there, the penetration was there and we camped in their half and we were the team on the front foot coming forward.

“They were springing us on the break, they kept a tight line in the middle, brought an extra man back in Mark Clarke who headed everything out today in front of Jordan Owens.

“We were 2-0 down to Glentoran and won 4-2, 1-0 down to Glenavon and drew 1-1, we were down to nine men and got a point against Coleraine with the last kick of the ball, so it says something about the character of the team trying to drive on all the time.”

While the Crues look on course to retain their title, at the other end of the table, Barry Gray and Warrenpoint Town have lost just once in their last 10 matches as they look to pull off an escape from relegation that looked nigh on impossible just a couple of months ago.

While Gray admits his view was obscured for the penalty incident, he wanted to focus on the positives, of which there were plenty, to take from his side’s performance.

“We couldn’t really see from where we were but we’re disappointed we’ve even given the referee a chance to give a penalty in that situation. He’s facing away from goal and he’s on the touchline effectively,” Gray said.

“But it’s not about focussing on that negative. We’re frustrated because of the fashion in which we conceded so late. The positives prior to that were huge. Again, it was another solid performance, defensively we were very solid and we’re disappointed as conceding because Jonny [Parr] didn’t have a lot to do.”