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Ballymena would love to clip Coleraine's wings with a Boxing Day win, says Kane

By Alex Mills

Tony Kane insists Ballymena United will not be bearing gifts when they travel to the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds to face high flying Coleraine.

Both teams approach the game having experienced contrasting results at the weekend. The Sky Blues felt hard done by following their narrow 2-1 defeat by Crusaders, while Oran Kearney's team hardened their challenge at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table by claiming an impressive victory at Warrenpoint Town.

Sparks usually fly when these teams go head to head and Kane again expects something similar this time.

"Coleraine are flying, let's face it," he admits. "They are big, big title contenders - they are winning week in, week out.

"Oran has them playing really well and scoring lots of goals - and they are also keeping them out at the back.

"But Boxing Day is always special. I'm sure they'll be looking for a bit of revenge from last year.

"We need to up our game from earlier this season when they beat us rather too easily. They ran all over us. We were just not at the races. Hopefully, this will be a different game."

The Bannsiders have lost only once so far and that was a hard fought contest against Linfield at Windsor Park. In fact, they were perhaps rather unlucky to leave empty handed.

"They have only been beaten once in the league, so that is great motivation for us," added Kane. "We would love to become only the second team to beat them.

"We'll all prepare right and hopefully have a few boys recovered after picking up a few knocks on Friday night. Prior to that game, we had been beaten only once in 10 games, so our form was good. It was hard fought, but it always is at Seaview.

"To be honest, the boys were all gutted in the dressing room afterwards so hopefully we can put that right at Coleraine."

After being used to a Boxing Day Big Two derby in his Linfield days, United boss David Jeffrey is relishing the challenge on the north coast - and is quick to acknowledge the contribution of his former player Oran Kearney.

"It was always thoroughly enjoyable, both as a player and manager," he added. "I'm really looking forward to it. Coleraine are flying.

"Credit must go to Oran, who is very meticulous, when you look at the job he has done. He written off last year and I fully experienced what he went through many times.

"He is now reaping the reward of five or six years of hard work, where he has bled a lot of young players, who now have a lot of Premier League experience."

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