Crusaders won't risk Gavin Whyte for Shield final against Linfield

Crusaders Stephen Baxter tries to calm Linfield boss David Healy after he was sent off in their last encounter at Seaview
Crusaders Stephen Baxter tries to calm Linfield boss David Healy after he was sent off in their last encounter at Seaview

Toals Co Antrim Shield final: Crusaders v Linfield (Ballymena Showgrounds, tonight, 7.45pm)

CRUSADERS boss Stephen Baxter won’t risk winger Gavin Whyte in tonight’s Toal’s Co Antrim Shield final against Linfield unless he’s fully fit.

The Dundee United transfer target has missed Crusaders’ last two games with a hamstring injury.

“We’re waiting on a fitness test on Gavin to see if he’s fit enough to play,” said Baxter.

“There’ll be no risks taken with him. If he’s not fully fit he won’t play because it’s not the be-all and end-all.

“I don’t want to force him in and ruin the rest of his season. We’ll just have to be very thoughtful the way we go about it.”

The Blues won their last encounter with the Crues at Seaview as both sides jockey for position at the top of the Danske Premiership and will also face one another again in the Irish Cup quarter-finals on March 4.

“The teams are evenly matched; there hasn’t been a lot separating us over the last four games so far,” added the Crusaders manager.

“So there are no secrets. Everybody knows the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. It’s really a case of who turns up on the night.”

Baxter heaped praise on the impact Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Rory Carroll has made on the Linfield team since his arrival and reckons that his defenders will need to be on their toes to mind in-form striker Andy Waterworth.

“I think having an international goalkeeper in their team has made a big difference to Linfield this year.

“Carroll has got their back four well organised, they give very little away and they concede very few goals. Their back five has been very, very good – but so has ours.

“Someone told me we have had six clean sheets in our last seven games. They’ve also Andy Waterworth is really bang on form for them but we've good players too who are in good form.”

Tonight’s Shield decider will be broadcast ‘live’ on BBC Sport NI website and on their Facebook page while in another innovation the match programme can be downloaded by visiting the Co Antrim FA’s website:

Paths to the final


Round One: Larne 0-2 Crusaders

Round Two: Glentoran 1-2 Crusaders

Semi-final: Crusaders 4-2 PSNI


Round One: Linfield 4-0 Donegal Celtic

Round Two: Linfield 3-0 Cliftonville

Semi-final: Linfield 6-1 Ards