Crusaders give Stephen Baxter the perfect curtain call thanks to familiar source

A picture of Stephen Baxter celebrating after the game
Stephen Baxter celebrates after the game -Credit:INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

It was the perfect finale for Stephen Baxter as one of his trusted lieutenants made sure his curtain call from Crusaders ended in another memorable moment.

Baxter can hand over the reins to his successor Declan Caddell with a Europa Conference League qualifier to look forward to in July after an epic battle with Coleraine. It was a real heavyweight tussle with the Bannsiders as the final game of the season lived up to its billing.

The Crues battled back from Jamie McGonigle's opener for the visitors to grab a half-time lead thanks to two quickfire goals in a minute from Jarlath O'Rourke and Daniel Larmour. The Bannsiders rallied in the second half and deservedly drew level in fine style with 20 minutes when Josh Carson thundered home a long-range effort.

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But just as he has done down the years Jordan Owens grabbed the vital winner three minutes into stoppage time to give his long-time boss the perfect leaving present. "I was looking at the clock and made the decision that it was Jordan Owens time with eight minutes to go," explained Baxter.

"We just needed to make the move and get the ball into the right areas to apply the pressure and we managed to get the goal. Jordan's done that his whole career, he's just a wonderful person and a wonderful servant of this football club.

"That's how close this game was, it was a hair's breadth, but those are the little things that get you over the line. We threw the dice and got the goal which takes us into Europe."

It was an emotional day at Seaview as Paul Heatley, Charlie Murphy, Ken White and Jeff Spiers joined Baxter in calling time on their Crusaders careers. While it's the end of Baxter's domestic tenure at the club he confirmed he will return to take charge of the European games to help the club out.

"Ultimately I have to come in because of the licensing side of things but Declan will be involved and we'll mastermind a plan around Europe," he said. "This is the end from my perspective though, this was the curtain call for me today."

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