Having just secured the Manager of the Month trophy for January, Stephen Baxter enjoyed another week to remember as he signed a new contract that ties him to Crusaders for the next two seasons. The deal ensures Baxter will remain in charge of the North Belfast side until the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign.
Baxter is now one of the Irish league’s longest serving managers having overseen a return to fortune for the Shore Road outfit after the relegation of 2005.
In his first full season at the helm, the former-striker guided the Crues to promotion while also tasting success in the Intermediate Cup and the Steel and Sons Cup.
Having established the Hatchetmen as a top-flight side once again, Baxter enjoyed further triumphs in the County Antrim Shield, the Irish Cup and, most recently, this year’s League Cup.
The new contract will be greeted enthusiastically by players and fans alike who have witnessed the 46-year-old emulate the success of his playing days when he was an integral part of the league-winning sides of Roy Walker.
Fresh from signing the extension, Baxter watched his side close the gap on fourth-placed Coleraine with a 1-0 win over Glenavon at Seaview on Saturday.
Gary Hamilton’s men looked unrecognisable from the side that had meekly bowed out of the Irish Cup courtesy of a 4-0 reverse to the Crues just a week previously as they put in a spirited display to frustrate the home side.
However, Aidan Watson’s goal just after the break proved the difference despite Sean O’Neill being forced to make several impressive stops to secure the points as the match entered its final stages.
The win, as well as cutting the gap to Coleraine down to just two points, ensures Crusaders will be in the top six when the league splits in four games time. This week also saw the completion of the first round of the Setanta Cup.
With Crusaders given a bye due to the success of last year they will now enter the fray at the quarter-final stage where they have been draw against Bohemians.
The two-legged tie will begin at Seaview on Monday March 5 with the return leg at Dalymount Park on Tuesday March 20.
The tie will no doubt attract added interest as the Dublin side are now managed by ex-Crues favourite Aaron Callaghan.