Crusaders are ready to turn up title heat full blast, insists Brown
Crusaders defender Rodney Brown says he's not surprised by Coleraine's revival under Oran Kearney, but he firmly believes the Shore Road men are in the mood to fight to the finish in the title race.
Brown's old club have set the Danske Bank Premiership alight this season, and are leading the chase for the Gibson Cup, but the Hatchetmen are breathing down their necks and sit four points behind the pacesetters with a game in hand.
The Crues have turned up the heat this winter and five league wins on the bounce, including a 2-0 Boxing Day triumph over Cliftonville, leaves the north Belfast men in good spirits as they prepare to visit Linfield in another blockbuster on Saturday.
Former Linfield player Brown, who left Coleraine to join the Crues at the end of 2016, says he always believed the Bannsiders would produce a strong challenge.
"Coleraine have been flying, and I'm not surprised because I could see what Oran was trying to do, and from the start of January they have only lost a few matches and that is a phenomenal record," said the left-back, who signed a three-and-a-half year contract at Seaview.
"I think now Oran is getting the credit he deserves.
"But I can see a lot of hunger in our dressing room. For the first five or six games we didn't really get going. We were not finding form but we are on a big unbeaten run now. I can sense we are starting to hit top form."
The 22-year-old is currently sidelined with a stomach muscle injury but he hopes to be back in the groove in January.
Injuries and suspensions have tested the depth of the Crusaders squad, but even without Paul Heatley and Colin Coates they managed to grab the derby bragging rights on Boxing Day.
"It was a big win on Boxing Day, and it's special for the fans, but you only take three points from it and now our focus will be on Linfield," added Brown.
"There are four or five teams challenging. Everyone has a realistic chance of winning it and we just need to focus on ourselves.
"Our defence was very good against Cliftonville. We were without Colin Coates through suspension but Sean Ward stepped in and was exceptional.
"I don't think Sean O'Neill had a save to make and that shows how good our defence was.
"I pulled a stomach muscle down at Warrenpoint but I hope to return in a few weeks."