Belfast Telegraph

I enjoy Crusaders battles and respect remains off the pitch, says Coleraine striker Eoin Bradley

Crusaders 0 Coleraine 2

Spot of bother: Chris Hegarty concedes a penalty by chopping down Eoin Bradley
Spot of bother: Chris Hegarty concedes a penalty by chopping down Eoin Bradley

By Graham Luney

As Coleraine striker Eoin Bradley left the pitch in the game's final seconds, Crusaders skipper Colin Coates acknowledged a job well done with a respectful handshake.

It was recognition of another masterclass in attacking menace from the 35-year-old as the Crues defence crumbled and conceded two penalties which Ben Doherty gleefully converted, taking his goal tally for the season to nine.

Chris Hegarty chopped down Bradley in the first half and near the end Jordan Forsythe  floored Doherty.

It was a top-of-the-table clash full of tension and feisty tackles but little free flowing football.

And it was another classic away performance and a statement of intent from the Bannsiders who replace the Crues at the summit of the Premiership on goal difference.

The stage is set for another cracker at the Showgrounds on Saturday, with champions Linfield the visitors, and there are strong indications there is sufficient quality, confidence and ability in this Coleraine side to see them last the pace in a long league campaign.

They have been defensively strong and the usually dangerous Crues struggled to unlock their rearguard, perhaps missing the aerial strength of an injured Jordan Owens.

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Instead, it was Coleraine's strong dangerman, Bradley, who was so effective even Coates acknowledged his qualities amid the disappointment of defeat. "You battle hard on the pitch and respect one another off it, it's good to see that respect from Colin at the end, a nice touch, and it was a good three points," admitted Bradley.

"It's a physical game and I enjoy that side of it, you have to expect that in this league.

"We seem to have a good run of results against them and we are on a good run ourselves but it's only October, there's a long way to go and many games to come against Crusaders."

And Bradley is expecting another ding-dong battle with Linfield this weekend.

"The big games are coming thick and fast and that's what you want," he added.

"Hopefully we can get a big crowd out next week and we can rise to the challenge again.

"Both teams are in good form and we will look forward to it."

Crues boss Stephen Baxter felt the two penalties were "bought" but he will expect his players to dig deep and come out fighting at Glenavon on Saturday.

"I have no complaints with the result, Coleraine have a style of play which works for them, they are doing well and it works for them," he said.

"They play off Eoin very well and everyone is entitled to play with the style they want.

"If you take the two penalties out of it, I thought we played the better football.

"Roy Hale was superb in how he marshalled the game and worked the ball wide.

"We passed the ball well but it was just two bits of play that won penalties that cost us."

Crusaders: Doherty, Hegarty (K Owens 45), Coates, Ward, Hale, Cushley (McElroy 70), Caddell (McGonigle 58), Forsythe, O'Rourke, Heatley, Clarke. Subs (not used): O'Neill, Beverland, Thompson, McGinley.

Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Canning, Jarvis, Doherty, Lowry, Bradley, (McLaughlin 94), Carson, Glackin (Parkhill 81), Traynor. Subs (not used): Gallagher, Douglas, McConaghie, Gawne, Maciulaitis.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).

Man of match: Eoin Bradley

Match rating: 6/10.

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