Captain's Column

Captain’s Column

COLERAINE skipper Stephen O’Donnell believes the entire first-team squad will learn from last weekend’s defeat to Linfield and has high hopes for Aaron Burns who is close to returning from injury…

After a really impressive first half and a great start to the second half, it was disappointing not to go on and win the game last weekend. Up until their first goal we were comfortable and dominating the game. We moved the ball well, looked comfortable and in control when out of possession. When that goal went in there seemed to be a real belief from Linfield that they would get something from the game and you would expect that from a side top of the league. For us, we must manage the game and firstly weather the storm before ensuring we don’t concede again. Weathering the storm is a big part of that. When you play against any top side, they will always have a period in the game when they dominate and are on top. It may only be 10 minutes, it may be 45 minutes. Either way you have to weather the storm and get a foothold back in the game. These moments can define games and had we managed to come through that spell without conceding again, we would have been able to get to grips with the game, get back on the front foot and manage the last 20 minutes. Unfortunately for us Linfield kept pushing and kept applying pressure and managed to get their goals. This is something that’s a lot easier to talk about when watching the game and the boys manage and dictate a game as it plays out in front of them. We will learn from that and if we find ourselves in that position again, I’m confident we will see the game out.

Crusaders away is always a tough but enjoyable game. The fact that it’s on a Friday night, under the lights and we want to try and catch them in third place makes it all the more exciting. Seaview has been a happy hunting ground for us in recent years and hopefully we can go there and pick up all three points. When I look at our recent visits there, they’ve all been good games with both teams playing attacking football. I expect the same tomorrow. It will be a difficult game as Crusaders are coming off the back of a defeat and that makes them dangerous. Good sides don’t lose two games in a row and we will both be giving everything to ensure that doesn’t happen. We have to correct the mistakes from last week and apply the things that we done so well in the first half of the game. There are doubts over Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens. Both top players. I would expect one of them to make an appearance and we must be prepared for that. Regardless of who plays, Crusaders have a big squad full of quality players.

But so do we, and we must be hungry to prove a point after last week and go and win the game.

We have recently lost Josh Carson to injury for at least six weeks and found out that young Alex might be out for a few weeks longer than expected. Both disappointing losses but hopefully not too serious. Josh has been a big player for us this year and after his disappointment in missing the Irish Cup final last year and being denied the chance to play in Europe this year through registration issues, I hope he is back quickly and fit for a successful finish to the season. On a positive note Aaron Burns looks fit and sharp and hopefully isn’t too far away from returning to first team action. He has been working hard in the gym and on the pitch to ensure that he comes back to make an impact between now and the end of the season.

Finally, I managed to make an appearance two weeks ago against Dergview in the Irish Cup. Only a 15 minute cameo but it felt good to back. It felt great to be out there with the boys and I think the gaffer has been great in trying to get me back fit. He’s resisted the temptation to throw me in before my knee was ready and I appreciate that. I’ve been desperate to play since Ballymena away on Boxing Day and I was a million miles away from being ready and probably would have made it worse. Rodney and Alan Millar have had a tough job listening to me trying to convince them that I’m ready, but looking forward and for the long term they have looked after me properly to ensure that when I come back, I’m pain free. Hopefully that’s now, I’ve been involved in training and so far there’s been no reaction. Almost three months since my last start and hopefully as my fitness increases, my next one won’t be too far away.

As always, let’s get a big crowd down to Seaview and continue our good recent run down there. Three points will be massive for us.

C’mon the Bannsiders!

Stephen O’Donnell