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Colin Coates is basking in crazy victory

By Keith Bailie

Crusaders defender Colin Coates has admitted he never considered that he might have to take a second penalty in Tuesday night's shoot-out win over Linfield.

The Crues drew 1-1 with the Blues at Windsor Park in the League Cup quarter-final tie before Stephen Baxter's men won a dramatic penalty shoot-out 10-9.

Coates got the ball rolling by scoring Crusaders' first penalty, before winning the match with his second strike in the spot kick competition.

Coates said: "It was a bit strange, really. When you score a goal in a penalty shoot-out you think to yourself, 'Well, I've done my job, I can relax now'.

"But obviously this was different. I realised as the shoot-out went on and the goals kept going in that might I might have to take another.

"When I saw the goalkeepers stepping up I realised I was going to have focus again.

"I can't say I was too nervous though, as I've scored plenty of penalties before and I've been involved in a number of shoot-outs in the past, so I always confident I would score.

"The fact my penalty was to win the tie also made life easier. It meant if I missed we'd still have a chance of winning, so knowing that helped me to relax.

"It was a crazy situation but it was a really exciting way to win a game of football. I'm sure none of us will experience anything like that situation ever again."

This week's League Cup win means Crusaders have not lost to Linfield in three encounters this season. Coates believes those results will give the Crues a lift going into going into next month's County Antrim Shield final against the Blues, but he doesn't believe it will be decisive.

"We've now know that we can compete with Linfield both at Seaview and at Windsor Park. We've gone to Windsor now and drawn on two occasions this season, so that has given us a confidence boost," he said.

"That said, you have to take each game on its own individual merit. Tuesday's win won't affect the County Antrim Shield final and it certainly won't make any difference in the league. You just have to focus on each individual game as it comes along. The only advantage is we now know we're capable of beating Linfield."

It's changed days for Coates and Crusaders. In years gone by the Hatchetmen were often mocked due to their poor performances against Linfield, but now they know they're capable of competing against David Jeffrey's men.

"I've been at Crusaders long enough to remember the occasion when we were 3-0 down inside the first half an hour. It was embarrassing and I'm glad we've put those days behind us," he said.

"But it's not hard to figure out what the difference is. Guys like Declan Caddell and Jordan Owens have matured, while guys like Paul Heatley and Josh Robinson have came in and improved our squad.

"We're now a much more experienced outfit with more quality at our disposal. We've learnt a few harsh lessons, but we're starting to feel the benefit."

On Saturday, the Crues will face Ballinamallard United at Seaview. Defender Coates is confident that playing 120 minutes on Tuesday night will not harm their chances.

"There is a bit of euphoria in the camp at the moment, but I'm sure we will be able to bring ourselves back down and focus on the Ballinamallard game," he said.

"I don't think we will be worn out after the Linfield game because our fitness is good, plus the manager also has plenty of options. He can bring in guys like Eamon McAllister, Paul Leeman or Gary McCutcheon if needs to freshen things up a bit at any stage.

"We've got plenty of depth in our squad now, but Saturday will be tough as Whitey Anderson's teams are always well motivated."

Belfast Telegraph


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