Manager Stephen Baxter pays tribute to his Crusaders before Cliftonville clash
Stephen Baxter paid tribute to Crusaders’ never-say-die attitude as they produced a stunning comeback to secure their first piece of silverware this season.
In horrendous weather conditions the Crues battled back from 3-1 down to snatch a last-gasp win over Linfield in the County Antrim Shield final on Tuesday night.
David Cushley headed home the winner in the 92nd minutes three minutes after Jordan Forsythe had levelled things up at Seaview.
“We’ve done it a few times in the past,” said the Crues boss.
“I remember we needed three goals here one time to beat Cliftonville
“We ended up scoring three times in five minutes to win a football match.
“We have a never say die attitude, we have players who are hungry to get over the line.
“There was a trophy on the line, we went three at the back and chased the goals down.
“There’s only four trophies to play for and we’ve got one of the ones we won last year back in our trophy cabinet.
“The dramatic finish was brilliant, that’s what makes football special for everybody when you get a rousing finish like that.
“When we equalised I felt we could go on and get a winner even though there was only three minutes left. And so it proved!”
Baxter was rightly full of praise for his team and the character they showed, but did reserve a special mention for two-goal hero Cushley, who has been in superb form of late.
“David has been outstanding over the last few weeks,” he said. “I wouldn’t like to single him out tonight because the whole team were outstanding in those conditions.
“He has the knack of putting the ball in the net. He’s a unique player, a scorer of goals.
“When you put him in the right area and give him a yard of space him will score you a spectacular goal because he strikes the ball so clean.
“He’s a great guy, as a lot of our guys are, they are amazing to be around and that’s what drives me on.
“We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment and it’s important that you keep that momentum going with the big games coming up. We just have to keep the focused.”
Next up for the Crues is a meeting with in-form Cliftonville. It will be Paddy McLaughlin’s first taste of a North Belfast derby, but it’s one he’s looking orward to.
“When you see the boys training three times a week and when you see them play over the last month we’ve been here you have to be confident playing anybody,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough, Crusaders are one of the top sides in the division, and going to Seaview is going to be a massive ask.
“However it’s a game we’re more than capable of winning because since we’ve come in the boys have been top drawer.
“They’ve been playing really well and working really hard we go into the game full of confidence.”
That confidence comes from having won four out of five games since McLaughlin took over, including last week’s win over his former side Institute.
He said: “It was a strange feeling to go up against a club you’ve been part of for ten years.
“I was just looking forward to the referee blowing his whistle and getting the game started because once the whistle goes it’s game on.
“It was frustrating for us, especially in the first half as it was hard to break them down. But it was great to finally get the goal and get the points and also pick up another clean sheet.”