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Captain's Column

Captain’s Column

COLERAINE skipper Stephen O’Donnell admits his team-mates will have to be more ruthless in front of goal if they are to replicate last season’s heroics…

This week has been as normal a week as we have had in the past month. Finally, all the focus has shifted from speculation and questions about the manager, back to football. For us as players that’s the most important thing. It’s been really good for us to get onto the training pitch and start working with the manager. As I said last week, Rodney has a fantastic reputation around the league and in his first few days in the job, it’s easy to see why. The manager has made a really good impression on all the boys since he arrived and has immediately given everyone a lift after what was a frustrating result away to Ards.

Last week’s game away to Ards was disappointing in regards the result, not the performance. The levels of performance were good and for anyone who was at the game or has watched the highlights, we created enough half and clear-cut chances to win the game. But on this occasion, we didn’t manage to score. I genuinely feel that on another day we would have ran out comfortable winners and picked up three points. Despite our dominating performance, Ards also deserve credit for how well they defended. I’ve played in games before where the pressure is relentless, and the attacks keep coming, wave after wave and believe me, it’s horrible. But with some luck, organisation and good defending, Ards managed to frustrate us and pick up a point. For me, as frustrating a day as it was, there is a big lesson for us to take from Saturday. Home or away, teams now realise what quality we have. Teams now respect that Coleraine are a quality side and they set themselves up to first and foremost be hard to break down and hard to beat. That’s a challenge for us that we must respond to. That’s part of being a top side, teams will come with a game plan to sit in and defend, but we must have enough about us to still go and win the games. So, although it may sound obvious, going forward we must find a way to win those games no matter what it takes. That’s the only way we can be successful this season. Going out every Saturday and being ruthless in front of goal and punishing teams when we’re on top. That’s what all top sides do and now with the new manager, I’m confident we can improve and win games like Saturday going forward.

Looking ahead to this week and its fantastic game for Rodney to get started with. What better way to start than a full house at The Dhowgrounds, a fantastic atmosphere and hopefully three points against Linfield. Then a derby at home to Ballymena, under the lights on Tuesday where I know The Showgrounds will be rocking. We’ve prepared well this week and as I’ve already mentioned, the focus being switched solely back to football has been perfect for us as players. Throughout my time at the club, we’ve always turned up in the big games. This Saturday, against another side who will be challenging at the top end of the league is definitely a big game. Our record against the top six last season was good, but if we’re honest about it, we probably had too many draws. This weekend I feel, that it’s important that we put in a good performance. Not only are the boys eager to impress the new manager and play well, we’re desperate to put last week’s disappointing result behind us and two big performances and big results will do that.

Going forward we must find a way to win those games no matter what it takes.

Linfield have received a huge number of plaudits this year for the way in which they have started their season. The games against them last season were all close enough and if anything, we feel we should have picked up more points against them. By all accounts they have played well and picked up some good results early on, similar to their start last season. So, for us its business as usual. The same way we approach every game. What do we need to be wary of and how can we impose ourselves on the game and be aggressive? For Linfield, Joel Cooper and Daniel Kearns have been getting a lot of attention this season. Rightly so as they are two quality players. Both have the ability to offer an attacking threat and have contributed to a high number of Linfield’s goals. They are two players we must deal with effectively if we are to win the game.

After that Linfield have Andy Waterworth who we know has the quality to score goals. For us defensively it’s about being aware of his movement and being close to him in and around the box as he has a real knack of getting on the end of things. Finally, they always possess a threat from set pieces and it will be just as important on Saturday to defend our box as aggressively as we did against Crusaders. This game has the potential to give us momentum going into an important run of fixtures and I feel that we have a great opportunity to pick up three massive points.

As always, I hope we can get massive crowd out to The Showgrounds on Saturday and really get behind the new manager and the boys. The atmosphere in that 2-1 win at home to Linfield last season was something special and if we can recreate that on Saturday, I know the boys will respond and put in a really positive performance to get all three points.

C’mon the Bannsiders!

Stephen O’Donnell

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