Irish Premiership: Baxter urges Crusaders to build up momentum

Michael McCrudden and Howard Beverland in action during Crusaders' 4-1 win over Institute at the Brandywell in September
Michael McCrudden and Howard Beverland in action during Crusaders' 4-1 win over Institute at the Brandywell in September

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter has urged his team to "build up further momentum" as they continue the defence of their Premiership crown against Institute.

The Crues made a faltering start to the season but three league wins in a row have moved them to fourth in the table.

"We are pleased to get a few wins under our belt and some consistency with three clean sheets," said Baxter.

"Our performance in beating Glenavon was more like ourselves but we have got to keep our foot on the throttle."

Crusaders are eight points behind pacesetters Ballymena United as they prepare to entertain Paddy McLaughlin's side at Seaview on Saturday.

"There's a long way to go in this league and there's a lot of football to be played. We are not even at Christmas yet," argued the Crues manager.

"We were conceding far too many goals but we are getting our form going and must get the three points we need on Saturday."

'Back to basics' urges Hamilton

Ballymena's win over Glentoran on Tuesday night dropped former league leaders Glenavon to third in the standings and the Lurgan Blues will be out to improve on their tally of one point from their last three outings when they host basement club Ards.

"If we continue to perform like we have in the first half of our last three games then we will make life difficult for ourselves in every game we play," bemoaned manager Gary Hamilton.

"We've had a chat about how we got into the position we were in before. We have to get back to basics and do what we were doing so well beforehand.

"If the players can do that - stick to the way we want them to play, do their jobs individually and as a team - then we have a chance to go on a wee run of games again."

Glenavon were 2-0 victors when they played Ards in Bangor in September
Glenavon were 2-0 victors when they played Ards in Bangor in September

Having found the net just 12 times in 16 top-flight encounters, lack of goals continues to be Ards' main difficulty.

"We just can't find the net at the moment. Week in, week out, we're relying on our defence to keep clean sheets and then hope to nick a goal," admitted manager Colin Nixon.

"Now we're exactly where we don't want to be and we have to stick together, keep fighting."

McAree 'not reading too much into table'

Linfield are at home to Cliftonville in the match of the day while sixth-placed Coleraine travel to Milltown without striker Eoin Bradley, who received a red card in the 1-1 draw with Glentoran last week.

"It will be a very difficult game - Warrenpoint is a hard place to go and Stephen McDonnell is doing a great job," said Coleraine manager Rodney McAree.

"He sets his team up well and they'll be hard to break down but we have to challenge ourselves. We have a little run of fixtures where we have to challenge ourselves and see how many points we can pick up on that run.

"I'm not reading too much into the table at the moment. I'll maybe look at it more when we get into January and see how it is then.

"I'm very hopeful of bringing in a couple of players at least in January but that will depend on who is available, what our options are and what money we have. We'll see where that takes us."

Glentoran assistant manager Kieran Harding praised his side's display in the second half of their defeat by Ballymena and hopes for a change of fortune against Dungannon at Stangmore Park to halt an alarming recent dip in results.

"Kris (Lindsay) has come in and given them a new lease of life. They've got off the bottom and they've got a few points together," said Harding of Saturday's opponents.

"It's not going to be easy there but if we play the way we did in the second half at Ballymena we'll be in good shape. We just have to cut out the errors."

Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 24 November - 15:00 GMT kick-offs
Live coverage on Radio Ulster and text commentary on the BBC Sport website
Dungannon SwiftsvGlentoran
Warrenpoint TownvColeraine

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