Phillip Lowry helped himself to a dazzling double to maintain top spot for Crusaders following their excellent 3-1 win over Dungannon Swifts at the weekend. Manager Stephen Baxter watched on as his side kept up their fantastic form that sees them stay ahead of Cliftonville, who are in second place in the league standings.
Livewire Lowry opened the scoring for the home side after just five minutes and the early strike was to set the tone for the remainder of the encounter that saw the visitors struggle to cope with the strength, pace and technique from the Crues. But it took the home side a further 35 minutes before they could add a second to their tally. And it was Billy Joe Burns who did the damage, finding the back of the net on 40 minutes to give Baxter’s men a 2-0 advantage at the break.
The saying goes that you can’t keep a good man down and this was certainly the case with Lowry, who delivered a hard-working shift and was rewarded for his toil on the hour. The goal-getter made it 3-0 and this effectively sealed the deal with no way back for a lethargic Swifts outfit. Boss Kris Lindsay will need to rally his troops if he is to get a new tune out of his often-tired-looking outfit, but they shouldn’t be too disappointed given that they are still third in the table. Lindsay, the former Portadown, Linfield and Glenavon defender who took over from Rodney McAree last year, certainly has the personnel and personality to inspire his troops next time of asking.
But this game was all about Crusaders and their victory. And they will prove a tough nut to crack for any side keen to challenge them for the title. Baxter has assembled an envious squad, the latest and perhaps most exciting recruit comes in the shape of ex-Northern Ireland under-21 marksman Paul McElroy. The attacker, who is aged 25, has pitched up at Seaview boasting an impressive pedigree, having previously been with Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City. The irony with the latest move, which has earned him a three-year contract, is that he arrived from Dungannon Swifts!
Baxter has identified the key strengths of his newest player and expects him to display them in abundance through the course of the rest of the season. He believes McElroy carries a real goal threat in his game and says he has pace, power and the ability to find the back of the net for fun.
Following the win over Dungannon Swifts, Baxter said of the marksman:
“Every time I’ve seen him play against us in the past three seasons, he has been the real. He has real technical ability, great feet and can swivel away from people. He also runs you in behind and that’s a strength in this league.”
Baxter says the strike ace’s knowhow and dynamism will carry him beyond the defence of the opposition and undoubtedly add firepower to the frontline for Crusaders. He is the third Swifts player to make the switch to the North Belfast club with both Chris Hegarty and Jarlath O’Rourke already in place at the table-toppers.