Belfast Telegraph

We're on a title crusade: Coates

By Graham Luney

Crusaders' fighting spirit and never say die approach came to the surface at the Coleraine Showgrounds last weekend and it leaves skipper Colin Coates still quietly confident his side can retain the Danske Bank Premiership title.

The Crues looked dead and buried when they were trailing 1-0 and down to nine men against the Bannsiders but Stephen O'Flynn produced the late dramatic twist with a last minute diving header.

Paul Heatley had been sent off in the 41st minute following an off-the-ball incident with Lyndon Kane and Jordan Forsythe was dismissed on 70 minutes for a two-footed challenge on the teenager.

But Stephen Baxter's side refused to throw the towel in and their resilience was rewarded, leaving Coates and co in high spirits going into today's home clash against Carrick Rangers.

"It wasn't a great game to watch but even with only nine men I felt we could get something out of it and our spirit shone through," said the six-times capped Northern Ireland international.

"In those circumstances it felt like a win but we are nine games unbeaten in all competitions and there is plenty to be positive about.

"I felt Coleraine were using some negative tactics and set up to stop us playing by having five at the back and four in midfield.

"Howard Beverland did a man marking job on Jordan Owens and appeared to foul him a bit.

"I didn't see the alleged incident with Paul Heatley.

"Heats says he's not guilty but clearly the referee or linesman has seen something and given it.

"I thought Jordan Forsythe's dismissal was a soft one.

"His studs were not up and it was not overly reckless."

The precious point at Coleraine keeps the champions within four points of Premiership pacesetters Linfield.

The Blues have come flying out of the traps this season, their only defeat coming in the 3-0 loss at Seaview.

Centre-back Coates feels it's too early in the campaign to make sweeping statements about any side in the Premiership.

"I don't think we can make a lot of judgements until everyone has played each other," he added.

"Linfield look to have a difficult run of games coming up while we are facing sides we will be expected to beat but teams like Institute, Ballinamallard United and Dungannon Swifts took points off us last season so we have struggled against bottom six sides and it's important we do a professional job in every game and look to get the win.

"I think you want to be in the mix come December as we had a fantastic Christmas last season.

"With the games coming thick and fast teams will drop points but we managed to go on a great run.

"Nothing can be taken for granted as three or four poor results can leave you in a spot of trouble but you are just looking for good individual and team performances at this stage of the season and the points total will increase."

Baxter was able to shuffle his pack in midweek and secure progress in the County Antrim Shield and there's no doubt he has a healthy squad which can be utilised when suspensions and injuries mount.

Coates added: "The benefits of having a strong squad are you can rest players in cup competitions and later in the season when the pitches are heavy and there is less grass on them and it is not as easy to play football the strong players can get the job done.

"We have players who can perform when others are injured and suspended but it's important we don't look further than the next game."

Belfast Telegraph


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