Belfast Telegraph

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Kearney has got the Bannsiders thinking like winners: Carson

By Steven Beacom

Josh Carson believes Coleraine's winning mentality will be crucial when they face Crusaders in tonight's title showdown at Seaview.

It's the match of the season to date with top-of-the-table and free-scoring Crusaders playing the role of the unstoppable force and the Bannsiders, two points behind, the immovable object given that many felt their challenge for the championship would have faded by now.

Not a chance. Oran Kearney's men have lost only once in the league this season and will move to the head of the Danske Bank Premiership if they overcome the Crues in north Belfast.

Northern Ireland international Carson knows what it takes to lift trophies having been at Linfield last term when they won a treble, although he was frustrated at his lack of game time in that successful campaign for the Blues.

The 24-year-old is now hunting a league and Irish Cup double with the Bannsiders following his summer move from Windsor Park. A key figure throughout, the talented midfielder's influence has been growing in recent weeks with his impressive general play, expert delivery from set-pieces and ability to grab vital goals showcased in the 3-1 victory over Larne in Saturday's Irish Cup semi-final.

Asked how a move to Coleraine was sold to him, Carson said: "Oran wanted to progress and push us forward as a football club.

"There's a desire that burns in Oran because he's a winner, the same with Winkie (coach William Murphy) and Dougie (experienced player Steven Douglas).

"They have all been there and won trophies throughout their careers, and Oran wants to instil that winning mentality into the football club. That's what sold it to me straight away.

"He told me he wanted to sicken me with football, so you can't argue with that, especially when you come from the number of games I played last season, you could probably count them on one hand. This season, I've played 30, which has been fantastic for me personally.

"I'm enjoying every minute of it. I just want to keep progressing, keep playing and hopefully we can go on and do big things at Coleraine.

"We've got great characters and real leaders in the team and there's a real desire to go out and win games."

Carson appreciates the magnitude of this evening's encounter. He is also well aware how much Crusaders want to right their wrongs from last season when a poor run of form combined with a fantastic finish from Linfield led to David Healy's men clinching the crown.

"Crusaders are a fantastic football team. You've seen that over the last five or six years," said the ex-Ipswich Town ace.

"They've won the title and numerous trophies, they've been a real force, so it's going to be a very competitive game.

"They will be highly motivated, especially with what happened to them in the run-in last season. We obviously want to sicken them again, but whatever happens it's going to be a fantastic football match."

Coleraine have cleverly tried to stay low key this season, but with a possible double six games away, Carson added: "We can only take it one match at a time, slowly progress and let the football do the talking.

"Don't get me wrong, you lie in bed and sort of think about the end goal. You can only dream about things like this - it would be a momentous achievement for the football club."

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