Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders have got the bottle to be champions again, says Burns

 

By Graham Luney

Billy Joe Burns believes Crusaders are showing title-winning bottle this season, but he still views Coleraine as a major threat to their Gibson Cup dream.

The title rivals clash tomorrow at the Showgrounds in a tasty showdown, and if the visitors win they will move four points clear of the Bannsiders.

Oran Kearney's side came flying out of the blocks this season, but the Crues are on a 20-game unbeaten run - they haven't lost since a 3-2 defeat to Glenavon in the Premiership at Seaview on October 15 - and eight league wins on the bounce has shot them to the top of the standings.

While Glenavon, Linfield and Cliftonville are hoping the top two stumble, some supporters are already viewing the title race as a two-horse sprint.

You won't hear Crusaders or Coleraine engage in that talk, but there is no escaping the importance of tomorrow's heavyweight tussle.

Burns, who found the net twice in big wins on the road at Linfield and Ballinamallard United, says the players have a real spring in their step after blowing away rivals over the Christmas period.

"People were accusing us of losing our bottle when we lost the league title last season, but we didn't lose our bottle when we won back-to-back Championships," said Burns.

"We've still got the players who came so close to winning the title last year, so they also have that disappointment within them which is driving them on.

"We are delighted with the results and our form over Christmas, but we won't forget what happened last season. Every team plays each other four times and a few defeats could see you fall away from the leaders.

"Coleraine's form has been remarkable, not just this season but in the second half of last season and over the course of the calender year they would probably be the best points-wise.

They are flying under Oran Kearney and Winkie, and there's no doubt they're a threat to us winning the title.

"You can't rule out other teams such as Linfield, Cliftonville and Glenavon because within a week or two your challenge can really take a hit. We are focused on what we need to do and the team are on a great run."

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