Belfast Telegraph

Kearney concerned by Crusaders hoodoo as Bannsiders endure more cup heartbreak

By Stuart James

Coleraine 0-2 Crusaders

Coleraine haven’t managed to turn the tables on Crusaders in their last seven meetings and it’s starting to rankle Showgrounds boss Oran Kearney.

You have to go back to the January day at Seaview over two years ago when Rory Patterson scored four times in a 5-2 win to discover the Bannsiders’ last success.

Five wins and two draws later, Crusaders have beaten Kearney’s men in the Irn-Bru League Cup final and now knocked them out of the Irish Cup.

Goals from Chris Morrow and substitute Matthew Snoddy saw the Crues progress to the semi-finals for the third time in four years but, for Kearney, it’s another case of what might have been.

“We couldn’t quite get ourselves to a position that we were forceful enough in the last third and we needed to be,” he said.

“We were not strong enough to get ourselves back in the game after going a goal down. I am disappointed for the fans who desperately wanted us to make amends for the cup final defeat.

“Crusaders have been getting the edge over us in recent games but we have a chance to put that right quickly.”

The Crues are back at Coleraine in the league on Saturday, when they will be able to welcome the suspended Paul Leeman and skipper Colin Coates — not that they were missed.

Keeper Sean O'Neill was solid too, dealing with Aaron Boyd’s early effort but his counterpart Michael Doherty was busier. He denied Crues striker Timmy Adamson and then turned out David Rainey’s shot.

Morrow headed the Crues in front with 36 minutes gone, directing the ball past Doherty from close range.

O'Neill foiled striker Curtis Allen and later substitute Paul Owens forced the keeper to turn his free kick over the bar.

In injury time, substitute Snoddy was left unmarked in the centre when Adamson found him and he finished with confidence to seal victory for the Crues.

Manager Stephen Baxter — whose men host Bohemians in the Setanta Sports Cup tonight — has warned his players not to take their eye off the ball after avoiding rivals Linfield in the Irish Cup semi-final draw.

The Blues beat Crusaders in last year’s final and the Seaview boss is pleased to have avoided the 40-times winners in the next stage.

“It’s a bonus,” he says. “We all know how good a side they are but we cannot afford to get too carried away.

“We might not know who we have to play yet but Donegal Celtic or Dungannon Swifts will still provide us with a difficult semi-final. They both have a massive incentive as they haven’t been to a final for a while. No matter who it is we will have to work hard because you can’t take anything for granted.”

He added: “You get nothing cheap in football. You have to work at it and I’m sure the semi-final will be another momentous game. We have been to the final twice in the last three years and also other important games so the players know what to expect. Our performances in cup ties have been very encouraging over the past few seasons.”

On goal hero Morrow, Baxter said: “Chris has been in remarkable form all season. He is a terrific player and again he has demonstrated his ability to get into scoring positions inside the box and take them.”

JJB Sports Irish Cup semi final draw

Ballymena United v Linfield*

Donegal Celtic/Dungannon v Crusaders

*Subject to registration appeal

Games to be played on Saturday, March 31

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