Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter eyes 'biggest ever moment' for club

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Back to back titles would be incredible - Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter says securing successive Irish Premiership titles would represent "the biggest ever moment" for the Seaview club.

A win over derby rivals Cliftonville at Solitude on Tuesday night would ensure that the Crues retain the Gibson Cup for the first time in their history.

"We have only won the league five times in our history so if we can do it back-to-back it will be an incredible achievement," said Baxter.

"You can see what it means to people."

A 1-0 victory over the Reds effectively clinched the title for Crusaders last season and a repeat performance would see the league trophy reside in north Belfast for a fourth consecutive year, Cliftonville having collected the trophy in 2013 and 2014.

"I am so caught up in getting us over the line that I haven't had a lot of time to dwell on the historic side of things," added Baxter.

"We are just trying to play the next game in front of us and Cliftonville are our nearest neighbours, so they won't be lying down for us.

"I asked the players to look after themselves over the weekend. We are closing in on the title and it's important that we close it off."

Crues have enjoyed upper hand

Crusaders have won 1-0 on each of their last three league visits to Solitude and are unbeaten in their last six meetings with the Reds, winning five of those encounters and drawing one.

Linfield's 3-0 success over Coleraine on Saturday guaranteed them a second-place finish in the table but manager David Healy is dangling the carrot of Irish Cup final places in front of his players ahead of their clash with Glentoran at the Oval.

"The boys are being given an opportunity to showcase what they can do and prove they are worthy of a place in the squad for the final," explained Healy.

The Blues boss rested Jamie Mulgrew for the victory over the Bannsiders, while Ross Gaynor was out with a slight injury and Reece Glendinning, Andrew Waterworth and Mark Stafford sat out the game as they were one booking away from missing the showpiece decider against Glenavon.

Glentoran go into the match unbeaten in their last five fixtures, having secured 13 points from a possible 15.

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Linfield and Glentoran managers look ahead to Tuesday's game at the Oval

Bottom club Warrenpoint Town prepare for their home game against in-form Ballymena United with manager Barry Gray admitting that "confidence is a wee bit low" among his players, but hoping that a triumph could "give us the spark that we need".

Ballymena secured their top-flight status by defeating Carrick Rangers but will now be targeting the seventh-place finish which would assure them of a Europa League play-off berth.

Ballinamallard will be without the suspended Ivan Sproule for their trip to Stangmore Park to face Dungannon Swifts, who are also assured of playing Premiership football next season.

The Mallards took a step towards easing their relegation worries by seeing off Warrenpoint on Saturday but finish their campaign with three away matches against the Swifts, Ballymena and Carrick Rangers.

In the evening's other matches, Glenavon continue their bid to finish third as they entertain Coleraine, while Gary Haveron's Carrick outfit play Portadown at Taylor's Avenue.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Tuesday 19 April - 19:45 BST unless stated
Carrick RangersvPortadown
CliftonvillevCrusaders
Dungannon SwiftsvBallinamallard Utd
GlenavonvColeraine
GlentoranvLinfield
Warrenpoint TownvBallymena Utd (20:00 BST)
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound

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