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Crusaders have know-how to get across line in title race: Coates

 

By Graham Luney

Crusaders captain Colin Coates is confident his side will hold their nerve and conquer Cliftonville to move another huge step closer to regaining the Danske Bank Premiership title.

Only goal difference separates the title rivals with two games remaining and the Crues know if they beat Cliftonville today and Ballymena United next weekend they will make it three championship triumphs in four years.

Coleraine go to Linfield today and then Glenavon in a week's time and on paper their fixtures look tougher but nothing can be taken for granted.

The Crues certainly won't be putting the champagne on ice after collapsing at this stage a year ago. Memories of that devastating defeat in the penultimate match at the home of the Sky Blues are still fresh.

But one year on there seems to be more confidence, composure and belief in the Hatchetmen's ranks and today's opponents will naturally be wary of picking up needless suspensions with the Irish Cup final against Coleraine on the horizon.

The Reds, however, will still relish the chance to torpedo Crusaders' title-winning chances and Seaview skipper Coates knows it's a test they must pass.

"There's good determination in the dressing room and most of our squad is filled with boys who have been there and done it," said the former Northern Ireland international.

"Some have done it multiple times and we are aged around late 20s and early 30s and we have that experience, we aren't kids any more. We are men and know what a title race is about and how to win matches.

"I think you have to expect Coleraine to win their last two matches, they are playing well and have the bit between their teeth. They sense an opportunity to win the league but so do we.

"We haven't worried about any team all season, we worry about what we are doing and two wins will seal the title.

"It will be another tough game, similar to the Linfield one. Cliftonville are maybe out of the running for third spot but they and their fans would like to come here and try to spoil the party."

Crusaders knew they had to return to winning ways against Linfield and a professional display kept their title bid on track.

"At this stage of the season they are all big games and coming off the back of the two draws it was important to get the win over Linfield," said Coates.

"Coleraine would have overtaken us with only two games to go and to be fair we produced another good performance."

Jordan Owens and Gavin Whyte were restored to first-team duties against the Blues and both showed their magic touch again with the club's record goalscorer netting a brace.

"Billy Joe (Burns) has got forward a bit more than he has done in recent weeks and his balls into the box are hard to defend," added Coates.

"As soon as he crosses the ball you expect Jordan to score at the back stick. It was a good all-round performance and we could have scored more.

"Gavin (Whyte) did well, as did Jamie Glackin when he came on. There were loads of positives which sets us up nicely for the Cliftonville game."

Crusaders vs Cliftonville

Danske Bank Premiership:

Seaview, Today, 3pm

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