Football/Soccer

Stephen Baxter: Cup final defeat will spur Crusaders on against Linfield

Crusaders' Jamie McGonigle celebrates scoring against Coleraine in the 2020 BetMcLean League Cup final. Picture by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
David Alexander

Danske Bank Premiership: Windsor Park, tonight, 7.45pm: Linfield v Crusaders

CRUSADERS boss Stephen Baxter has promised his team will not suffer a cup final hangover when the travel across town for tonight’s Danske Bank Premiership showdown with Linfield at Windsor Park.

The north Belfast boys agonisingly lost to Coleraine in last weekend’s League Cup decider at the same venue, but Baxter insists that defeat will act as a motivational factor for this top of the table clash.

“We can’t afford to dwell on the disappointment . . . it was a cup final, we were beaten, so we move on,” said Baxter. “We were back training again on Monday and there was no mention of it.

“Our focus is now on this game – a massive one for both clubs.

“Linfield have put a run together of late and have established a six-point lead at the top of the table, which is quite substantial at this stage – the momentum is with them.

“We are actually eight points behind them but have a game in hand. So, this is one we simply can’t afford to lose.

“Although we are a little bit off it (the top), we’ve still put ourselves in a challenging position. It’s important we now put a little run together to get us back up there.

“It’s going to be a tough game, they all are. But we’ll go to Windsor Park with a determination to erase last week’s defeat and also pick up three much needed points.

David Healy’s Linfield approach the game in the best possible shape having racked up three back-to-back wins – the last of those a thumping 4-1 victory at Ballymena United.

The former Northern Ireland striker admits it would be a massive psychological boost if his team could take the scalp of the Crues tonight.

“This is the first of nine cup finals for us,” he said. “Anytime the teams meet, it’s always a battle.

“One thing you can always guarantee it will be a feisty game. We can more than mix with Crusaders, so we will relish the challenge.

“We showed character and guts at Ballymena last week which was pleasing. Sometimes it’s not all about performance because it’s about picking up three points.

“But we got a performance and the points at Ballymena which was good. We’ve racked up three back-to-back wins, so it’s important to build momentum at this time of the season.”

Striker Andy Waterworth was again on the score sheet at the Showgrounds – his fifth in three games which delighted Healy.

“Andy always comes up with the big goals at the business end of the season,” he added. “That’s five in three games for him.

“You can always rely on Andy grabbing a big goal on the big occasion. I was pleased for him.

“Even though we were not very good in the first half, we still deserved our lead at half-time.

“I thought the overall performance was excellent and we certainly deserved the three points.

“It was a big result and a big performance. The fans got right behind the players at Ballymena which meant a lot.

“We’ll need the same support for what will be a difficult game against Crusaders. Their support means a lot in the big important matches.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 to get full access

Football/Soccer