Belfast Telegraph

Colin Coates ready for Windsor Park comeback

By Ian Callender

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter has confirmed that Colin Coates is available for tonight's big Premier League game against leaders Linfield at Windsor Park.

"The good news is that his ankle isn't as bad as first feared," said Baxter.

"We have been able to treat it with an injection so no operation is required which is great news for him and hopefully he will be available for the rest of the season.

"We'll need him, he is a big leader and we need all our key players at the top of their game."

But Baxter has already admitted that if Crusaders lose tonight, their hopes of a first league title in 17 years are as good as over.

"We are six points behind with a game in hand and if we lose, that is us nine behind and you end up running out of games as we did three or four seasons ago when we are chasing Linfield down," he said.

"The mathematics suggest that if we lose at Windsor, in reality it is curtains but we will approach the game positively," he said.

"We have a good record there over the last few seasons but Linfield are a slick outfit. They are the cream of the crop with brilliant players from one to 25, but we ready for the challenge.

"That's why you play football and we are going there, still in with a chance of the title and that's where this club wants to be.

"We have lost three games all season, and although we drew against Glentoran, Cliftonville and Portadown we could have won all three and were excellent in all those games. The Ballymena defeat was the only disappointment. So we have to keep the momentum going, keep the hunger in the side and, so far, I haven't been able to ask any more of them."

As well as Coates, who was injured during the Portadown game on New Year's Day, Baxter will have six fresh players, who sat out Saturday's Irish Cup win against Crumlin Star plus Jordan Owens and Declan Caddell who came off the bench for the last 25 minutes.

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