Belfast Telegraph

Determined Bradley is out to make up for lost time as the stakes rise


By Jonathan McNabb and Adrian Rutherford

Coleraine striker Eoin Bradley believes there is a lot at stake as the Bannsiders lock horns with derby rivals Ballymena United this afternoon.

Oran Kearney's men now trail leaders Crusaders by five points, with that number also separating Ballymena from a top-six place, albeit the Sky Blues have two games in hand over Glentoran.

Ahead of crucial Irish Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night for both sides, Bradley is hopeful his team-mates can concentrate on getting three points at Warden Street.

"It's a derby, so we know it will be a tough match," Bradley said.

"There will be a good crowd there for both sides, but we're playing well and Ballymena have been indifferent of late. We know we have to match them as it will come down to the wire.

"There is a lot at stake because they will want us to fall further behind Crusaders and close the gap on Glentoran for the top six.

"We will be going there to get the three points and the squad is looking forward to the game. At this stage the most important thing is getting three points."

Bradley has an impressive scoring record against the Sky Blues and feels he is getting back to his best after suffering a knee injury earlier in the season.

"I feel like I'm playing well and getting fitter," said Bradley. "Hopefully that continues as there are a lot of big games coming up. It was a frustrating time on the sidelines, but I aim to make up for that now."

The 33-year-old is enjoying his football at The Showgrounds and believes the signings of Aaron Burns and Stephen Dooley can push him further.

"It's great being part of this squad and we have a lot of quality," added Bradley. "The recruitment of Burns and Dooley in January has made us stronger.

"The next week is a big one for us and we need to win all three games. We will just be taking each game as it comes and see where it takes us."

Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey, who enjoyed remarkable success in his years at Linfield, believes that the Bannsiders' board's decision to stick by Kearney - a key player in his days at Windsor Park - is paying dividends.

"Coleraine have been the stand-out side," he said. "Oran is maybe six years in the post and has achieved much.

"Bryan (McLoughlin) and I are two years in the post this March, and we're making progress. But all of the work Coleraine have put in over the past few years is really bearing fruit. They are a most impressive side, so it will be a tough game."

Crusaders won 6-1 at Glenavon on Tuesday night to move five points clear at the top, meaning that with eight games left, Coleraine can't afford any more slip-ups.

But today promises to be a big test against a Ballymena side still with ambitions of making sixth.

"It's ginormous because it's a derby but for us every game now is very big, as we try to close that gap on Glentoran," Jeffrey said. "They've had a couple of great results under Big Ronnie (McFall), so we've got to keep fighting.

"Saturday is simply about getting another three points to get closer to Glentoran, and that's the message to the players. It just happens to be a derby game, which adds to the spice of things.

"But the only focus will be putting in a really good performance and trying to get something from the game to get closer to sixth."

Jeffrey was impressed with his side's display at Stangmore Park on Tuesday following a mixed few weeks for the Sky Blues.

He added: "We've gone from the high of winning a semi-final against Cliftonville, playing fantastically well, to Windsor and the final, where Dungannon were by far the better side.

"We had a respectful performance against Crusaders, then most disappointing was the result at Ards."

Belfast Telegraph

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