Confidence levels aren't on the slide at Coleraine, says McAree
Coleraine boss Rodney McAree is more concerned about unleashing a fully fit, powerful Coleraine team on the rest of the Danske Bank Premiership than any fears over a lack of confidence at the Showgrounds.
McAree, who succeeded Oran Kearney as Bannsiders boss last month, is still waiting to savour his first win and memories of the 4-1 home loss to Glenavon are still raw.
That scoreline, which featured a Stephen Murray hat-trick, ensured Coleraine suffered their first home defeat since April 22, 2017.
That unbeaten Premiership record of 32 games was good while it lasted, but the more important statistic now is the 12 points the Bannsiders are behind league leaders Linfield, albeit with a game in hand on the Blues.
Coleraine had a title dream when they kicked off the season, however another defeat at home to Crusaders this afternoon could leave them with a mountain to climb.
The Crues look like they are moving through the gears but McAree is hungry to net that first victory.
Since their 3-0 win at Seaview - Kearney's last match in charge - Coleraine have failed to win any of their five league battles, however the former Dungannon Swifts boss doesn't believe confidence has been dented.
"I'm not overly concerned about that because the atmosphere in the camp is good, as are the training sessions we've had," said McAree.
"Our biggest concern is the lack of numbers because when we've a few players out the squad is stretched.
"It would be nice to have a bit of competition back and a stronger 18. That will come, we are getting closer to that.
"The one defeat was against Glenavon, who have been flying and were very good on the day.
"Crusaders is going to be another tough game, it's been hard for the players because there has been a change of manager and on top of that we haven't had a full squad of players fully fit.
"Within those games we could have won two or three of them, it's frustrating but there are positives too.
"We have to try and target a win at home to Crusaders.
"There was probably a bit of nervousness about the squad around maintaining that unbeaten run and now there's an opportunity to go on another run and see where it takes us."
While the champions were off colour earlier in the campaign, Stephen Baxter's side are flexing their muscles again and McAree won't write off their title hopes at this stage.
"They have hit form with the very good home wins over Cliftonville and Glentoran," he added.
"I was at the Cliftonville game, which was very competitive and a great advertisement for the league.
"You can never write off anyone in October, there are a lot of points to play for and we all know Crusaders' strengths.
"Give them encouragement and they will punish you."
A home victory would leave the Bannsiders a point behind the Crues but the bigger concern is they are 12 points behind leaders Linfield, albeit with that game in hand.
"There is a gap there and we don't want that opening," added McAree.
"We have home games against Crusaders and Cliftonville so hopefully we can get all our top players playing and winning games. It's difficult to claw back all those points against a side like Linfield who have started well, as have Glenavon, so we have to focus on each, get our first win and build on that."
McAree is hoping Aaron Traynor, Gareth McConaghie and Jamie McGonigle will be fit to face the north Belfast side, while Josh Carson could make the bench.
There is also light at the end of the tunnel for Lyndon Kane, who has started jogging again in training.
The Crues will be without the suspended Sean Ward, while Ross Clarke is hoping to shake off a shoulder injury.
Baxter said: "Ross scored a great free-kick against the Glens and we have a few players who can do that.
"You hope your big players can produce in the big games."
Coleraine vs Crusaders
Danske Bank Premiership
Coleraine Showgrounds, Today, 3.00pm