Belfast Telegraph

Winning is all that matters at Crues: Hegarty


High aims: Crues ace Chris Hegarty is eyeing victory
High aims: Crues ace Chris Hegarty is eyeing victory
Coleraine midfielder Ben Doherty

By Graham Luney

Crusaders defender Chris Hegarty feels the Danske Bank Premiership pacesetters must survive a storm in the north west this weekend.

The league leaders head to Coleraine still unbeaten and six points ahead of the Bannsiders and Cliftonville, but Hegarty knows the wheels could still be knocked off the Seaview bandwagon.

Stephen Baxter's men were relieved to pocket maximum points in their 3-2 win over Glenavon on Saturday after keeper Sean O'Neill saved Josh Daniels' penalty in added time.

With assignments against Coleraine, Glentoran, Linfield and Ballymena United on the horizon, the Hatchetmen's class and character will be tested.

The Coleraine Showgrounds has proved to be a hostile venue for the north Belfast side and now there is the added theatre of Jamie McGonigle's return.

The 23-year-old striker will face his old employers at the Showgrounds for the first time since his £50,000 move to the Crues in August.

Hegarty conceded the late penalty against Glenavon last Saturday, however replays indicated he did touch the ball as he challenged Conor McCloskey.

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Now the former Dungannon Swifts ace believes a few scares could await his side at the home of the Bannsiders.

"Sometimes you have to win ugly and it won't be easy against Coleraine, that's another massive test," he said.

"Coleraine have gone under the radar and it's a good place for them to be. Although people will say they are underdogs, they have a very strong team and we know what they are about.

"But our squad is brilliant and everyone knows other players are knocking on the door looking their shirt. A draw against Glenavon would have left us very disappointed, and like the Larne game we would have been annoyed at our own mistakes.

"If you look at Glentoran and see how they gave Linfield a good game on Saturday, it shows the strength of all the teams.

"You expect a tough game every week. The Glens will be hard to beat and Glenavon have found another gear so they will take points off teams.

"Larne and Linfield are strong so it's going to be very hard to stay high up in the top six. I know we edged out Glenavon on Saturday but you would take three points every week, no matter how you get them.

"All the points count and we avoided a draw which would have been two points dropped.

"You get the same points for beating teams around the bottom of the league so consistency is very important."

Coleraine come into the game with defensive problems following red cards last weekend for skipper Stephen O'Donnell and Adam Mullan.

Lyndon Kane is back from a family wedding to take his place but midfielder Ben Doherty, one of the Bannsiders' star performers in their excellent start to the season, is looking forward to the clash with the Crues.

"We are the only two unbeaten teams in the league," he said.

"We'll be missing a few players obviously, Stevie and Adam are suspended and James (McLaughlin) has a hamstring injury, but we'll prepare for it as we would any other game.

"We're not conceding too many goals, although we felt we conceded a sloppy one at Ballymena last week.

"Set-pieces have been a big thing for us and we allowed a free header. Someone has maybe switched off.

"But the season has started well for us, we're unbeaten, we've had some big results and the main one that sticks out is the Linfield one.

"I think the start we've made has really set the tone for the season because it's something for us to hold onto now and we take a bit of pride from that as a team."

Doherty was brought to Coleraine by former boss Rodney McAree and is enjoying life under the renewed Oran Kearney regime at Ballycastle Road.

"I arrived in January and I enjoyed playing under Rodney. I was playing in midfield but Oran has come in and he wants me to play a different role," explained Doherty.

"I'm playing off the left and had to fill in at left-back when we went down to 10 men at Ballymena.

"I've enjoyed coming in and the fans are brilliant. The lads in the changing room are also second to none. It's one of the best changing rooms I've been in. There's a lot of quality and there are no big egos.

"We have a very solid changing room and I think it shows out on the pitch.

"We sort of slipped under the radar a little bit. I saw a lot of predictions and people predicting us to finish seventh or eighth.

"We don't take that on board, we just focus on every game that comes and we'll finish where we finish.

"Like us they're unbeaten and it'll be a big test, but at the Showgrounds we can beat anybody on our day."

Coleraine vs Crusaders

Danske Bank Premiership:

Coleraine Showgrounds, Today, 3pm

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