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Bannsiders come full circle in run of defeats

Oran Kearney says his players must step up to the plate as Coleraine prepare for today's relegation showdown with fellow strugglers Ards.

The Bannsiders' run of nine consecutive Premiership defeats started with a 3-1 loss to Ards on November 11 and, ahead of the sides' return meeting at The Showgrounds, bossman Kearney has demanded a response.

"We're in a very difficult situation and the only ones who can help us out of it are ourselves," he said.

"It's at times like these that you need big characters and big personalities to come to the fore.

"As disappointing as this run has been, in recent weeks I've seen an improvement and I believe we're close to getting the one result that could help settle us down and to work from. We have a united dressing room with everyone pulling in the same direction, but that attitude needs to be put into practice when we go out onto the pitch.

"The majority of the squad were told six weeks ago they were all playing for their future and that's no different.

I suppose the beauty of it is, the way that we work contracts at our club is that they're appearance based – so they're all playing for their futures and they know that.

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"I've spoken to them about how it's sometimes looked like a lot of them have, maybe, thrown in the towel.

"I haven't thrown in the towel and it's simple – if there are guys that have gone soft well that's fine, they can step aside because there'll be plenty of guys to come in during January".

Kearney, who has snapped up former player Stephen Dooley in a short-term deal before he returns to America later this month, reprimanded his players for only producing "half a performance" in their New Year's Day defeat to Cliftonville at Solitude and, though almost all observers in Irish League football are shocked to see Coleraine floundering near the base of the table, the former Linfield midfielder is not arrogant enough to assume things will simply work themselves out.

"Our next two league games are against Ards and Warrenpoint and they're matches that it's important to get something from," he added.

"We are, where we are. We're in a relegation dog fight and I make no bones about it, the sooner our players realise that the better".

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