Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders skipper Coates targets ruthless streak

By Stuart McKinley

Colin Coates has called upon his Crusaders defensive colleagues and their midfield counterparts to start scoring goals if they want to challenge for the league title.

With half a dozen games gone this season the Crues remain outside the top six and four points adrift of league leaders Cliftonville.

That is partly down to an inconsistent start to the season, as well as a failure to score enough goals.

Before beating Glentoran 3-0 on Saturday the Crues had only scored six times in five league outings, with just three players – Timmy Adamson, Gary McCutcheon and Jordan Owens on the scoresheet.

Coates became the fourth man to net for the Shore Road men when he headed home twice, either side of half-time, to stun a Glentoran team that had bossed the game before he got his first goal on 29 minutes.

The Crues skipper struck again on 56 minutes and although Jordan Owens fired home the third six minutes later, Coates is urging his team-mates to help take the weight off the frontmen in order to push for at least a repeat of last season's runners-up finish.

"I think our performances have been decent, we are maybe just waiting on one or two of the strikers to start firing on all cylinders, but players like myself and the boys in midfield need to chip in with a few goals to take the pressure off them," he said. "They are quality players, but they maybe just haven't hit the form at this stage that they were in last season.

"Playing up front is different to playing centre-half, it either happens for you or it doesn't, but it will come.

"If we can get the likes of Paul Heatley, myself and others in midfield scoring goals it will keep the pressure off them and help us to get results.

"We are reasonably happy, but we need to be picking up wins so that we don't leave ourselves with too much to do in the second half of the season."

Although the Crues were ahead at the break Glentoran were still very much in the game. They had created enough chances to be comfortably in front, but David Scullion scooped a shot wide when one-on-one with Sean O'Neill, Johnny Addis headed over as well as having a shot blocked and Jimmy Callacher brought a fine save from the Crusaders keeper.

There is a real understanding among the Glentoran fans as to what the current team is trying to do though.

Their creative play is impressive, even if their cutting edge in the final third wasn't as sharp as it had been when they beat Ards 5-0 last week.

Still, the Glens players were applauded off the pitch at half-time – a measure of the appreciation that the work in progress at the Oval is progressing.

Crues manager Stephen Baxter delivered a rollicking to his players at the break. That, plus the introduction of Declan Caddell and a slight change of shape, resulted in a much improved performance after the break.

Hopes of a Glentoran comeback that might have prolonged their stay at the top of the Premiership were ended by those two goals from Coates and Owen in the space of six minutes and the Crues could have scored more.

Indeed Coates missed a penalty that would have given him a hat-trick after Adamson went down in the box, although the offence didn't look a lot different to when David Scullion had earlier went over and referee Mark Courtney waved play on.

"Playing centre-half you don't get too many opportunities to get a hat-trick. I think that was mine and I missed it," said Coates.

"I am just happy to get a couple of goals and the win because our form hasn't been great.

"We have beaten the Big Two now, but struggled in other games. This wasn't one of our better performances, but we ground out the win and did what we had to do.

"I think we need to just get ourselves back into the mix.

"We were sitting ninth before the game and although it's still early days we need to start turning the draws into wins."

Although his failure to score from the spot meant that Coates didn't leave the Oval with the match ball he was happy to accept a less tangible reward.

"Gary McCutcheon would normally take the penalties, but he was on the bench and I have taken a few in the past," he said.

"That's the first one that I've missed.

"It wasn't the most important of penalties given that we were 3-0 up at the time, but from a personal point of view it would have been nice to score.

"I am a defender and I am more happy with the clean sheet because they have been hard to come by recently."

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