Belfast Telegraph

Bradley backs Bannsiders to stand strong in Serbia test


By Graham Luney

Eoin Bradley believes Coleraine can handle the heat in Serbia tonight and keep their Europa League dream alive.

The Bannsiders' Irish Cup final hero and his team-mates will need to cope with the humidity as well as Spartak Subotica in what should be a tricky assignment.

But Oran Kearney's men are determined not suffer a thrashing on the continent similar to the painful one they endured a year ago.

Coleraine were on the end of a 7-0 first leg defeat to Norwegian side Haugesund before they held their opponents to a goalless draw at The Showgrounds in the return game.

This Serbian showdown looks another daunting test this year, but the men from the north west are determined not to be rolled over again.

Bradley, who netted the third goal in the Irish Cup win over Cliftonville, is raring to go as the curtain comes up on another season.

"The boys are looking forward to the challenge, it will be difficult but we will give it a go," said the man who is nicknamed Skinner.

"Unfortunately we didn't know a lot about them but we have been more focused on ourselves and building up our match fitness.

"The boys are in good shape because you are only off for a month, it's not a long break and it's about getting back into the swing of things with regard to match fitness.

"It will be a tough assignment, and it will be very warm too which is another problem. All you can do is give it a lash.

"We were caught cold in Norway a year ago and I don't think that will happen this time.

"We tried to play our normal game but they scored quickfire goals, and the right approach is to battle and stay in the game as long as possible.

"Our number one aim will be to keep the tie alive and, if possible, keep a clean sheet or even nick a goal.

"The next round is a dream tie against Sparta Prague and that would be amazing for everyone.

"It's huge money for the club, and to compete with clubs like Crusaders you need that investment."

Kearney and his assistant William Murphy miss the trip as they are on holiday.

John Gregg, the Bannsiders' head of youth development, will lead the side at the Karadorde Stadium and be assisted by coaches Trevor McKendry and Paul Owens.

Kearney - who will be back in the dugout for the return leg - may not be calling the shots in Serbia, but Coleraine are relieved their boss is still in the hotseat after St Mirren considered turning to the Ballymoney man for their vacancy.

"It's a big boost for the club Oran staying on," added Bradley.

"It was great for him getting recognised for the brilliant job he has done here.

"St Mirren is a big club and you can understand why he wanted to be considered for it.

"It would have been some experience for him and his family but now that's behind us and we can enjoy more success with Coleraine."

Spartak Subotica


Europa League 1st Qual Round, 1st Leg

Karadorde Stadium, Tonight, 7.45pm

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