IRISH LEAGUE: Baxter calling on Crusaders' collective confidence ahead of Ballymena visit
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter considers collective strength key to the club's impressive consistency.
“We have been working away the last month or two scoring goals and defending well,” said Baxter. “You can see the benefits of having confidence in the players around you and that comes from shared experience and momentum.
“That knowhow in games, in terms of dealing with situations, can be vital and it stands as a foundation to build on moving forward.
“We went behind against Glenavon but did not panic under the circumstances as results and performances in the past have allowed the players to approach those periods with trust in each other to handle anything.
“At times when you are fighting to win games you must take risks to score and we have an attacking group of players.
“But you line out with 11 on the pitch and everyone has a job to do but also work collectively within a defensive unit, midfield unit and attacking unit, plus overall as a team.
“Ballymena United have also been on a great run of form and maybe suffered in the early part of the season due to injuries to some key players.
“They look solid and we know to expect a tough test against Ballymena.
“The games come thick and fast at this time of the season but it is great and nothing comes easy.
“The fixture congestion is something you manage but also look forward to within this run of games.
“We prepare as best we can around the holidays and within the tight schedule but also take time to enjoy the situation.
“When a team is going well players tend not to come up and complain about tiredness or a slight knock no matter how packed the fixture list.
“We have injuries and must cope with those around the heavy run of games but everyone is in the same position and they all have to be played.
“We will just go out as always to enjoy the big occasions and work hard towards playing well and winning.”
Ballymena United arrive for the Seaview showdown encouraged by a run of one defeat in 10 fixtures which has pushed the club into the top six.
“Now the marker has been set by reaching that top-six position the challenge to the players is to stay in that half,” said United boss David Jeffrey. “We did not want to emphasise the situation too much during a period of difficult results earlier in the season but, now in a better position, we can be open about how injuries have had an impact.
“In fact, we face Crusaders with the only 16 fit players available to us.
“But the players deserve immense credit and we take confidence from that commitment ahead of a game at a Crusaders side flying.”