Crusaders will not be throwing in the towel in the title race any time soon if manager Stephen Baxter has anything to do with it.
The Crues may have slipped 12 points behind league leaders Linfield following last Saturday’s defeat at Dungannon Swifts, but boss Baxter says they will keep fighting.
“There’s a lot of big games to be played and a lot of points to be fought for but obviously we lost the last day and Linfield and Ballymena both won so we’re playing catch-up a little,” he said.
“So we’ve just got to take them as they come and we’ll be fighting to the death in every game we play no matter where we finish in this league, as long as I’m getting performances from the players that justify what they do then I’ll be happy.
“We play every game to a conclusion and see where it takes us.”
Crusaders have yet to take a point off the Bannsiders so far this season having lost 3-0 at Seaview and then 1-0 at The Showgrounds.
And Baxter is expecting another tough test tonight (Friday) when the Crues face Coleraine.
“I watched them play against Dungannon last week and I thought they were very good so we know all about their strengths, we played them a lot last year and I thought they were really good,” added the Crusaders boss.
“Rodney (McAree) has bought well and has got some good players in but on any day, all of these teams can beat each other and that’s the beauty of the Irish League - you just don’t know what you’re getting from week to week.”
The Bannsiders themselves are still smarting from a disappointing result last weekend.
For the second time this season McAree’s men produced an excellent display to lead 2-0 against Linfield at Windsor Park.
Unfortunately though this time around the Blues scored three times in the last half an hour to snatch an unlikely vistory, much to McAree’s disappointment.
“We were very happy with how the first 50 minutes had went,” he said.
“We were 2-0 up and I thought we were cruising at that stage.
“We were comfortable, but it all went wrong for us after that.
“You have got to give Linfield a lot of credit because they put us under a lot of pressure but individuals have to take responsibility and collectively we have to take responsibility when we are in this type of situation.
“We’ve got to dig our way out of it, show a little bit more leadership, a little bit of drive, personnel maybe organising things a bit better.
“It wass a difficult one to take, but there are definitely positives to take out of the game as I do believe Linfield will go on to win the league.
“We’ve went to Windsor twice this season and we’ve done extremely well.
“The first game we won and last week we were left disappointed we didn’t take anything out of it.”
McAree knows they will be in for another tough test against the Crues on Friday night, but it’s one he’s looking forward to.
“It’s another tough game for us, but we have to take the positives out of last Saturday’s game.
“We have to be aware that we can compete with the so-called best teams in the country.
“We have to go there and challenge ourselves that we can get the win.
“We missed the opportunity to close the gap on Crusaders last week so we have to try and put that right on Friday night,” added the Bannsiders boss.