Belfast Telegraph

Coates chasing Cup glory in 300th game

By Graham Luney

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter says it’s “every player’s dream to play in cup finals” and that dream will have extra special value for his skipper Colin Coates on Saturday.

The Northern Ireland international will make his 300th appearance for the Shore Road side and if he gets his hands on the Irn-Bru League Cup, it really would be a memorable way to hit the milestone.

Awarded a testimonial season this year, the centre-back, who has won six Northern Ireland caps, will need to keep Coleraine’s goal machine Curtis Allen quiet if the Crues are to lift silverware at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

It’s a challenge the no-nonsense defender, who has remained loyal to the Crues since joining the club as a youngster, will relish.

“To win a cup final on your 300th appearance would be special,” admitted Coates.

“It’s a great achievement and I’m very proud of that. A few of the lads have got there so it’s nice to be part of that club and we’re still young so we could go on and get 500 games. That’s a small thing on the side though as far as I am concerned.

“I’ve played in a few finals but I haven’t won them all. Hopefully I can help the young lads and the guys who maybe haven’t experienced a game as big as this.

“If there is anything to split between the teams it is probably the fact that we have appeared in a few finals. Some of them haven’t and hopefully that will work in our favour on the day.

“But the flip side of that is that as they haven’t appeared in one, they will be desperate to win it. It was 2003 since they last won a major trophy so there will be a strong desire to do so this time.

“They’’ll be going flat out and we’ll need to match that.”

Former Linfield striker Allen has smashed in 18 goals this season and he’s one marksmen Coates will need to keep an eye on.

“All the strikers are that way in the league,” added Coates.

“You know you aren’t going to get an easy game.

“Curtis is very sharp in the box and he can be the sort of player who is quiet for 80 minutes and then pounce.

“He can bang two in the back of the net if you give him a moment’s peace. We’ll need to snuff him out.”

Coates will line up alongside experienced campaigners David Magowan and Paul Leeman in defence in Saturday’s showpiece final.

For Magowan it could be a case of third time lucky as he was suspended for the Irish Cup final in 2009 and then ended up on the losing side in last season’s Irish Cup decider.

“I’m sure there are a few other players in there who haven’t won cup finals so it would be nice for them,” added the 26-year-old who has also got his hands on the County Antrim Shield.

“Mags was unfortunate to miss the first final and then we lost the next one against Linfield so it would be nice for him to pick up a winner’s medal.”

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