Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine thrive under the pressure, says Eoin Bradley

By Alex Mills

Striker Eoin Bradley insists high-flying Coleraine can handle the pressure of chasing down Crusaders at the top of the table.

In what is developing into an intriguing Danske Bank Premiership title race, the Bannsiders' performances have suggested they are in it for the long haul.

Neither was prepared to give an inch last weekend when the teams met at the Showgrounds.

Oran Kearney's boys indicated they have the desire and hunger to write themselves into the record books by becoming the first Coleraine side since 1974 to parade the Gibson Cup - they recovered from a two-goal deficit twice to nick a crucial 3-3 draw.

At this stage, it looks like a two-horse race for the title, although Bradley will dispute that.

It means there is little room for error when Coleraine face an erratic Glentoran side at The Oval this afternoon.

"There is no talk of what we can or will do in the dressing room," said the 34-year-old former Derry GAA star. "There are 13 games left, so we simply focus on the game ahead, it's as simple as that.

"People speak as if it's a race between ourselves and Crusaders, but that's nonsense. Glenavon are still well placed, even though they are a few points behind. They have a couple of games in hand over us.

"I think we did make a statement with last week's performance. There are not too many teams that come from behind to peg back Crusaders, especially when you are two goals down on two occasions.

"That shows the quality and character we have, we failed to throw in the towel. We'll need that attitude for the remaining games.

"Some would say that the pressure is on us every week, but that is something we are relishing. I'd rather have the pressure at the top of the table than the pressure at the other end.

"No one fancied us to make an impact in the league this season, so the pressure is off to a certain extent. We were at the top for a few months and handled it well, so it's now over to Crusaders."

After a three-and-a-half-month lay-off because of injury, Bradley is relieved to be back on board again.

"It was a difficult three months," he said. "I had a brace on my leg which meant that I had to focus on my upper body strength in training.

"We've had a few long-term injuries with Lyndon Kane and Brad Lyons also facing lengthy spells out, but it says a lot about the squad that we have managed to go toe-to-toe with Crusaders at the top.

"Lyndon hasn't kicked a ball in the first team this season, but he's now fully recovered and played a few games in the reserves. I rate him as the best right-back in the league, so he's like a new signing - it couldn't come at a better time.

"There is a great buzz about the place at the minute. The crowds this season are on the up. We, as a group of players, know what we want - we have our own targets."

Although Gary Haveron's Glentoran have flattered to deceive, Bradley is expecting no favours to be handed out at The Oval today.

"In my time playing Irish League football, I never remember coming away from The Oval and saying, 'That was handy enough'," he said. "Glentoran are still a massive club. Yes, they have struggled over the past few seasons, but they are capable of beating any team.

"It's the same with any of the clubs in the bottom six, on their day they are a match for any side.

"We'll be going there with a professional approach. We have only one aim, to come away with three points and that's the attitude we'll have in every match from now until the end of the season."

Belfast Telegraph

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