Belfast Telegraph

Colin Coates back in business and ready for Euro test

By Graham Luney

Colin Coates says he's ready to help Crusaders achieve one more European miracle.

The Crues skipper is back from his holiday in France and ready to put his shoulder to the wheel as Stephen Baxter's side attempt to stage a sensational comeback against Skenderbeu at Seaview tomorrow night (7.45pm).

Trailing 4-1 from the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round clash in Albania, the Shore Road boys have a mountain to climb and they will be without the injured Jordan Forsythe while Paul Heatley is on holiday.

Skipper Coates is available for selection again, though he admits Baxter may opt to keep faith with the Josh Robinson-David Magowan partnership.

Coates played in the first leg of the scrap against Levadia Tallinn but missed the 1-1 draw in Estonia that secured a first ever Champions League victory for the Hatchetmen and the defeat in Albania.

"The manager gave everyone a night off on Thursday but I trained with the reserves, trying to get up to speed again after my holiday and also played against Kilmarnock on Saturday and it's up to the manager whether he wants to stick with Josh and Davy or turn to me," said the six times capped Northern Ireland international.

"I think the boys suffered from a bit of tiredness out there which is to be expected and from a defensive point of view we would say we could have done better with one or two goals but that's gone now and we need to score first at Seaview to have any chance of fighting back.

"If they score again we will need four just to take it to extra time and that's asking a bit much. The clean sheet will be vital for us, we must be patient and not be too desperate to score early. I don't think Albanian sides have a healthy record on the road and this side have not won any of their last six away from home in Europe so that's something to be positive about. After a long journey hopefully we can catch them cold.

"We scored from a cross over there and we should look to test them with crosses at Seaview."

Jordan Owens netted in Albania but the full-time side with international experience in their ranks are a much slicker outfit than Levadia Tallinn and their dangerman is gifted midfielder Bernard Berisha.

Whatever happens tomorrow night, the Crues will reflect on a financially lucrative and thrilling European adventure.

Coates added: "The money (£525,000) is a huge bonus for the club as it's the kind of riches you just can't get in the Irish League.

"The rewards for getting through a round are significant and it's just a shame this tie isn't a little closer. The boys have told me this is a top quality side but we'll test them at Seaview."

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