Stephen Baxter hails Crusaders’ spirit and belief

Crusaders  Manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders Manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter blasted their Albanian opponents, KS Skenderbeulabelling them ‘a disgrace’.

The Shore Road boys bowed out of the Champions League qualifiying, 4-6 on aggregate, but produced a gutsy showing in a 3-2 win on Tuesday night that had Skenderbeu on the ropes at times.

An injury time double blast from Matthew Snoddy and Andy Mitchell deservedly won it on the night - after the Albanians took a 2-1 lead following Stephen O’Flynn’s opener on 50 minutes.

But it was a bad tempered affair, with the visitors deploying time wasting tactics at every opportunity.

“Skenderbeu showed us no respect at all, and their time wasting tactics and diving were a disgrace,” said Baxter.

“They wrote us off last week and, in the post match press conference last week, they more or less told us we should not be on the same pitch as them - a team of internationals.

“But I used that as motivation for our boys. I can tell you Skenderbeu were glad to see the back of us tonight. They knew they were in a game, and were hanging on over the last 10 minutes.

“I told them last week they would see a different Crusaders team and our boys didn’t let me down.”

Baxter hailed the Crues’ battling qualities in spite of all the aggravation.

“Our fitness levels were much superior all over the pitch. That team were on the rack and they knew it. They were so pleased to get out of here,” he added.

“It really pleased me that a part time club can stand up to a team with a £3 million budget.

“It would have been a travesty had we not won the game.

“We were first to the ball all over the park. They really didn’t trouble us. Yes, they scored twice, but we gifted them the goals through silly mistakes.

“Had we got a second goal without conceding, it would have been different.

“I think their (Skenderbeu) celebrations at the final whistle said it all - it was all hugs and kisses.”