Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter last night hailed his team after their victory over Ards at Seaview, insisting they ‘knocked the ball about like Barcelona’!
The Shore Road boys sent out a chilling message of intent that they have no intentions of relinquishing their Danske Bank Premiership title with a performance of desire, hunger and no shortage of skill.
Goals from Michael Carvill, Rory Patterson – on his debut – Jordan Forsythe and Declan Caddell sent the Crues fans home happy.
Although Ards replied through a fine Gareth Tommons double, they just didn’t have enough in the locker to go toe-to-toe with the champions on this occasion.
Their plight became a mission impossible when they lost midfielder Josh Kelly, who picked up his second yellow card 10 minutes from the finish.
“I thought we produced some sensational football in the first half . . . we knocked the ball about like Barcelona,” beamed Baxter. “We really should have been home and dry at half-time.
“Everything we did in the opening 45 minutes was great . . . we zipped the ball about with great accuracy.”
New boy Patterson blotted his copybook by dinking a first-half penalty kick over the crossbar – an incident that didn’t please Baxter.
“Rory apologied to the boys for his spot-kick miss,” added Baxter. “You have to accept that.
“He’s a 34-year-old, so you don’t scold people like that.
“He knows the game inside out. He was hurt.
“Even when we took him off near the finish, he again apologised sitting in the dug-out.
“But he gave us a great shift. He worked really hard – and he scored a sublime goal.
“He spun his marker and whipped the ball into the net on the turn.
“It will take him a little while to get used to our style, but I was pleased with his overall performance.”
Baxter, however, admitted he wasn’t totally thrilled with his boys in the second half.
“You always have to be honest,” he added. “I don’t dress things up.
“We could have done a lot better defensively in the second 45 minutes, but we will work on that.”
Ards boss Colin Nixon insisted his boys perhaps deserved something from what was a ding-dong clash.
“I though the lads worked tremendously hard,” he said. “I suppose people thought the writhing was on the wall we when were 2-0 down, but I thought we were in the game for the entire 90 minutes – the boys put in a great shift.
“When Crusaders went 3-2 in front, we had a great chance to equalise only for Jonny Frazer to shoot narrowly over the top.
“We were probably on the wrong end of a few strange refereeing decisions.
“I don’t want to be too critical, but a few decisions were a bit odd.
“Although we were beaten, I can still take a lot of positives from the game.
“We came with a gameplan, but I think we lacked a little bit of belief in the first half.
“We addressed that at half-time and we came out for the second half like a house on fire.
“We got another great goal and suddenly we were level (2-2) at the home of the champions – we were right in the game.”