Belfast Telegraph

McGonigle urging Coleraine to stride off into the distance


By Alex Mills

Striker Jamie McGonigle believes motivation will not be an issue when Coleraine make the trip to Solitude today.

The Bannsiders are still smarting from their first defeat of the domestic season, losing to Crusaders in a dramatic midweek League Cup tie at Seaview.

Oran Kearney's boys, however, have the consolation of being the only undefeated team in the Danske Bank Premiership.

It means when they return to north Belfast to face Barry Gray's rejuvenated Cliftonville, they'll be keen to get back on track.

And, if they really required any other incentive to gobble up their 10th win from 11 league starts, the prospect of roaring 10 points clear of third-placed Linfield could well be key to Kearney's team talk.

"We have a big incentive because we know we have the chance to extend our lead on Linfield and Crusaders as they don't meet until Monday," said McGonigle. "One of them will be dropping points, or perhaps both in the event of a draw, so it's a massive chance for us.

"It will not be easy. Cliftonville are unbeaten in something like six games, but it's a big opportunity to move further ahead.

"We can't afford to focus too much on them. We have to take care of ourselves. We'll do what we can to take three points from the game."

McGonigle insists it's vital his team get the midweek defeat out of their system.

"We have to show character to bounce back after the result at Seaview," he said. "Although it was a cup game, we still wanted to win it.

"Crusaders are a great side - they are always a threat in the air. A couple of defensive errors possibly cost us the game.

"We'll not get too down about it. We are ready to move on. Their winner was scrappy. Aaron (Traynor) knows he attacked the ball with his wrong foot, but these things happen."

With striker Eoin Bradley expected to be out for two months because of a knee injury, McGonigle has shouldered the responsibility leading from the front.

He was again called into the Northern Ireland Under-21 squad a few weeks ago and he admitted the experience has helped him progress.

"It has helped me develop as a player and a person," he said. "It has just taken a while to develop from the training ground to the pitch.

"Oran (Kearney) has always encouraged me to put myself about in training. He said it would then only be a matter of time before it would come on match days.

"Being away with the international team has definitely helped me. With the boys training every day, they are a bit sharper. It was perhaps a bit more difficult for me at the start, but I think I'm now up with the pace. It's great to get away with the squad."

McGonigle, however, was shrewd enough to dodge the situation when asked if the Bannsiders can sustain their impressive early season form. He replied: "It's the usual cliche, we'll take one game at a time."

The big bonus for Kearney today is the return of striker Josh Carson, who missed the last three games because of suspension.

Kearney said: "It's a massive boost for us, especially with Bradley missing. Although he hasn't played for a few weeks, he'll bring a certain amount of hunger and desire. His return comes at the right time for us."

Cliftonville vs Coleraine

Danske Bank Premiership:

Solitude, Tomorrow, 3.00pm

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