Crusaders boss Baxter happy with impact of summer signings after cup win

Jamie McGonigle celebrates his goal with Crusaders team-mate Paul Heatley
Jamie McGonigle celebrates his goal with Crusaders team-mate Paul Heatley

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter says League Cup quarter-final goalscorers Jarlath O'Rourke and Jamie McGonigle have " settled into the club well".

McGonigle, recruited from Coleraine in the summer, scored the opening goal in the Crues' 2-1 win over Ballymena.

O'Rourke, signed from Dungannon Swifts in May, grabbed the winner in the dying minutes of extra-time.

"Jamie is starting to get better and better and it was nice to see Jarlath pop up with a goal," said Baxter.

The Seaview side will join holders Linfield, Coleraine and Institute in Saturday's semi-final draw as they continue their bid to win the competition for the first time since 2012.

"Jamie came in with a knee injury and it took him some time getting fit. He is stepping up to the mark and his movement and quality was really good against Ballymena," added the Crues boss after watching the striker score his 10th goal of the season.

"His goal at Glenavon on Saturday was a good strike from an angle with his left foot and his goal against Ballymena was stunning.

"There is a lot more to come from him and lots more to show him and teach him. He's going to be a brilliant player - he's got all the hallmarks and we are pleased with him.

"Jarlath's all-round play has been excellent too and they have settled into the group well."

Ballymena's Adam Lecky was the second player to be red-carded after Rory Hale's dismissal
Ballymena's Adam Lecky was the second player to be red-carded after Rory Hale's dismissal

The match was the third meeting between the clubs this month, with their league encounter ending in a 1-1 draw and Ballymena edging the north Belfast club in a penalty shootout after another 1-1 stalemate at the last-eight stage of the County Antrim Shield.

Following McGonigle's first half opener, Crusaders were reduced to 10 men early in the second when Rory Hale handled on the line and Andy McGrory netted the resulting penalty kick.

Ballymena then also found themselves a man down when Adam Lecky was sent-off.

"There was never going to be much in it. Both teams passed the ball well, fought for every challenge and it was end-to-end stuff," observed Baxter, whose side had gone four games without a win in all competitions.

'We finished really well'

"We finished really well and chased it down in the last 10 minutes to try and win. I asked Jarlath to get himself into the box and he came up with the winner.

"We suffered a triple whammy at the start of the second half with losing a player straight away, then Ballymena scoring the penalty and the momentum then switches and they start putting the ball on top of us a little bit.

"We got a great shape, quickly worked out what we wanted to do and frustrated Ballymena. We didn't allow them to come through us at all - we limited them to very little and we were very comfortable.

"We were trying to hit them on the counter-attack. Jamie had a couple of wee chances so we could have nicked it with 10 men.

"They got their man sent-off and after that the game becomes a much more even contest."

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