Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter praises pair of summer recruits after achieving important landmarks
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The Crues head into today’s clash with Glentoran sitting second – seven points adrift of leaders Linfield – and have now won their last five consecutive matches in all competitions, including last weekend’s 4-1 triumph over Dungannon Swifts where they were without the likes of Paul Heatley, Adam Lecky and Rory McKeown.
Jude Winchester did make his return from the bench to mark a first Premiership appearance since early-September and the absence of key players also offered summer recruit James Teelan an opportunity to shine.
The 21-year-old, who made the switch to Seaview after scoring 10 top-flight goals for Newry City last season, made his maiden league start for Baxter’s men and celebrated by netting a crucial equaliser at Stangmore Park before Josh Robinson, Ben Kennedy and Mal Smith completed the turnaround in County Tyrone.
"You have to be on your game and we weren't in the first-half against Dungannon,” Baxter told the club’s media channel. “You have to do the simple things well so we reminded of them of that at half-time and my word, the difference in the second-half performance.
"We missed Adam Lecky and Paul Heatley in our normal set-up and that disrupted our play.
"We didn't play as well as a team as we would normally do, but you have to allow for these things and you have to find solutions if you lose a few players.
"The goals were taken really well.
"I was very pleased for James Teelan getting a start and a goal.
"He maybe had one that he should have tucked away and made it two for himself.
"Mal Smith scored his first ever goal in Irish League football which was brilliant.
"Little things like that please me and Ben's goal was worth the admission money."
Robinson continued his return from injury by starting in a second consecutive league victory and Baxter was full of praise for the centre-back.
"Josh Robinson was man of the match (against Dungannon) and we told him that afterwards,” he added. “I thought his performance and the way he led the team, won his aerial battles, put his foot on everything, goes up and scores the goal to put us 2-1 up - I thought he was immense.
"He kicked one off the line as well when the game was tight – little things like that are important.
"He's only getting back to fitness levels and is probably still only playing at 70/75%, so we need to see that improve over the next few weeks, but you need all those players coming back.
"I look forward to getting more from Josh, but I thought his performance against Dungannon was spectacular."
Crusaders and Glentoran couldn’t be separated in their first league meeting of the campaign with the pair drawing 2-2 at The Oval in August.
The Glens have won three of their last four meetings at Seaview, including last season’s 2-1 success.