Belfast Telegraph

Bannsiders won’t buckle in title chase: Smith

By Jonathan McNabb

Coleraine midfielder Martin Smith has urged his team-mates to keep the pressure on leaders Crusaders as they welcome Glenavon to the Showgrounds this afternoon.

The Bannsiders had led the Danske Bank Premiership for the majority of the season, but four draws in their last six league outings have allowed Stephen Baxter's side to claim top spot.

Smith, however, insists Coleraine will aim to keep it business as usual as they chase their first Gibson Cup since 1974 and believes the return of Brad Lyons, Stephen Dooley and Aaron Burns from injury will only help them.

"As a squad, we are just taking each game as it comes," Smith said. "We're hungry and determined to win every game without looking too far ahead.

"We feel no fear or pressure with table standings, we just concentrate on what we're doing.

"The squad here is very strong which is what we need, but getting the three lads back in will be a huge boost for us as we enter the business end of the season."

The former Sunderland trainee is anticipating a tough game on the Ballycastle Road, but doesn't believe the Bannsiders' win and a draw against Gary Hamilton's men this season will have any bearing on the fixture.

"It will be another tough game, but we are prepared and ready to go," Smith added.

"Our aim is to put in another big performance for the fans and to get the three points.

"I don't read into past scorelines or forms, as if we perform like we have been, we will be fine.

"With the support we are getting from our fans, there'll be a bumper crowd so I'm really excited for the game."

The likeable Englishman penned a new deal to remain with the club until the end of the season and has put a switch back to England to the back of his mind.

"I'm really happy to be at the club and I'm enjoying every minute of it," Smith concluded.

"I'm determined to achieve success with this team and create a bit of history together.

"My aim eventually is to move back to England, but I just have to deal with my performances right and demand a high standard from myself every week."

After being out with a calf injury, Burns is in line to make his debut for Kearney's side who have also been boosted by the arrival of winger Dooley from Cork City.

"Finally we are in a position where we have a bit of depth and can bring on players who give us a freshness," said the former Linfield midfielder.

"Maybe if we had had that in the Linfield match (a 2-2 draw) there would have been a different outcome."

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