Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders won't let title glory slip away like last campaign, vows Jensen


Graham Luney

It's a game that could effectively decide who wins this season's Danske Bank Premiership title and Crusaders' experienced shot-stopper Brian Jensen says his side are ready to deliver.

Coleraine will arrive at Seaview tonight knowing victory will edge them agonisingly close to a first championship triumph since their only success in 1974.

The Bannsiders have finished runners-up on nine occasions and Jensen is desperate to help steer the Crues to a seventh title victory and their third in four years.

But the Crues are clinging onto a slender two-point advantage with only five games remaining and any slip tonight will give Coleraine a huge chance of finishing the job.

With the finish line in sight last season, Stephen Baxter's side faltered and the Hatchetmen are in no mood for an action replay.

Big Dane Jensen, who joined the north Belfast side last summer, admits Coleraine are a formidable force but he expects his side to be crowned champions.

"The manager has brought in experienced players like myself and Sean Ward while hopefully Colin Coates can stay injury-free after his time out last season which had an impact on the team," said the former Burnley No.1.

"We are here to help some of the younger lads and no one wants to go through what they went through a year ago. It may be on a few people's mind but we are determined that will not happen again.

"It's up to us to deal with the pressure and take the chance, there's no point in looking back too much. I think the boys have shown with their performances this season that they won't let it slip again."

Crusaders were without several big name players when they thumped Warrenpoint Town 4-1 last Monday night, including Gavin Whyte, who was impressing for the Northern Ireland Under-21 side in games against Spain and Iceland.

Whyte has been in sensational form this campaign and despite being a winger, he's the league's top marksman with 21 goals.

Cross-channel clubs, including Queens Park Rangers, have been casting admiring glances in his direction and Jensen says the 22-year-old can sparkle in the professional ranks.

"People were raving about Gavin before I came to Crusaders but what has happened over the last few years is that he has added consistency and goals to his game," said Jensen, whose nickname is 'The Beast'.

"I think some of the transfer talk went to his head a little and affected his form. In those moments you can put too much pressure on yourself but he is handling it all brilliantly now and his two strong performances for the Northern Ireland Under-21 side will give him even more confidence.

"This season he has been our rock and anyone who comes up against him will know they are in for a game. I don't think anyone can stop Gavin progressing in the game, even to the full-time ranks. I think the only person who can slow him down is himself because he has the talent.

"Fingers crossed he does get the move he deserves and if he keeps working extremely hard and producing with a little help from his team-mates then a bigger club will come calling. It's really all down to himself and his dedication which he is showing at the minute."

Jensen, who has kept Sean O'Neill off the teamsheet for much of this season, was impressed with his side's demolition of Warrenpoint.

"It was a bit strange for us playing on a Monday night in front of the Sky cameras but we had to deal with it and it was important to retain our lead in the title race," he said.

"We had around seven players missing for the Warrenpoint game so it was going to test us but the boys played well. The pressure is always on but it was a good, professional performance. I think we have enough talent there to finish the job but we've got to prove it.

"Coleraine have been superb this season but we are at home and we owe them one after losing once and drawing twice with them in the league."

Jensen will be 43 in June and a career which started in 1993 is still going strong.

"I'll review my future at the end of the season after talking to Stephen (Baxter)," he added.

"I feel good and fit but I'll wait and see. I'm totally focused on the remaining games at what is a crucial moment in the season for all of us."

  • Crusaders v Coleraine, Danske Bank Premiership: Seaview, Tonight, 7.45pm

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