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Coleraine must be on top form to challenge Crusaders: McCauley

Ballymena United 0-2 Coleraine

By Billy Weir

Hitman Darren McCauley is focusing on knocking down a few more targets before the end of the season.

From the striker's point of view he is another goal closer to his main objective of 20 goals with his 15th of the season chalked up in Coleraine's canter to derby day victory against Ballymena United on Saturday.

But the main target is team glory and his strike, added to Eoin Bradley's clinical opener - an incredible 16th strike in 16 games for the barnstorming forward against the Sky Blues - means that the Bannsiders are breathing down Crusaders' necks.

With their slip at Cliftonville it means Oran Kearney's side are just two points behind the leaders and McCauley hopes that he can bang in a few more goals to heap more pressure on the men from the Shore Road.

"I think the first half was a bit scrappy and a typical derby game but although we didn't perform as well as we could I don't think we were in real danger," he said.

"But in the second half I thought we were excellent and competed really well and had a few chances to score a few more goals."

One of those chances fell to McCauley himself who sliced through the defence and fizzed in a shot that left Ross Glendinning helpless but the striker was left cursing his luck as the ball thwacked off the crossbar and bounced to safety.

"I was away celebrating to be honest because I thought it was in," he smiled.

"I just cut inside and thought 'go for the top corner' but unfortunately it hit the bar. But I just thought 'keep plugging away and you'll get one' and then I had another chance and probably should have hit the target.

"The one I did get took a slight deflection but I think it would have gone in anyway. It's my goal. I am going to get 20 goals this season.

"It's a big result but we're still two points behind. Nothing is won at this stage of the season and Crusaders are an exceptional team and we'll have to perform to the best of our ability in the seven or eight games to go."

Next in his sights will be Glentoran in tomorrow night's rearranged Tennent's Irish Cup clash with Glentoran at the Showgrounds while Larne come to Warden Street looking to heap more derby misery on the bruised and battered Sky Blues.

They are really down to the bare bones, Kevin Braniff limping out of Saturday's game before kick-off and Andrew Burns joining him at half-time with a hamstring injury, and David Jeffrey admits that it has been tough,

"They are testing times and there are things over which we have no control and can't do anything about," he commented.

"It has always been my policy not to make an issue of injuries or suspensions but in 20 years of working together Bryan (McLoughlin) and I have never experienced the run of injuries like we have.

"These are not injuries which are caused by lack of preparation or by players not looking after themselves, they are just injuries that happen in football and that's the frustrating thing."

BALLYMENA: Glendinning, Ervin, Quigley (McCaffrey, 88 mins), Owens, Andrew Burns (Weir, 46 mins), T Kane, Millar, McCullough, Shevlin, McKinney (Faulkner, 89 mins), McCloskey. Unused subs: McDermott, Balmer.

Coleraine: Johns, L Kane, Traynor, Harkin, McConaghie, O'Donnell, McCauley, Lyons, McGonigle (Aaron Burns, 67 mins), Bradley (Parkhill, 81 mins), Carson. Unused subs: Mullan, Douglas, Smith.

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)

Man of the match: Ciaron Harkin

Match rating: 7/10

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