COLERAINE kick-start the first of three successive home fixtures as Irish Cup finalists Crusaders visit The Showgrounds tomorrow afternoon (KO 3pm)…
Danske Bank Premiership
The Bannsiders come into tomorrow’s contest on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Larne at Inver Park. A brace from Lee Bonis – either side of Mark Randall’s strike – did the damage for the hosts as Coleraine remained sixth in the Premiership standings. Oran Kearney will have the services of Adam Mullan and Rodney Brown following suspension.
Crusaders have been in great form of late after reaching the final of the Irish Cup, as well as last weekend’s 4-0 success at title chasing Glentoran. Stephen Baxter’s side currently sit in 4th spot in the table and have won their last four games in all competitions.
Coleraine would make the trip to Crusaders earlier in the season as they pocketed all three points at Seaview back in October. A strong start by the visitors would be rewarded as Eoin Bradley’s turn and finish would find the bottom corner on ten minutes. The lead would be doubled just after the hour mark as Matthew Shevlin’s cross was headed into the net by the onrushing Josh Carson.
The Bannsiders would host Stephen Baxter’s side at The Showgrounds just before Christmas. Despite the first-half being a low key affair, the woodwork would be struck just four minutes after the restart as a neat passage of play resulted in Jordan Forsythe’s effort cannoning off the crossbar. On 54 minutes, the Bannsiders thought they had the made the breakthrough as a throw-in wasn’t cleared by the Crusaders defence and the ball landed at the feet of Josh Carson. The midfielder – who netted in the reverse fixture back in October – was unable to steer his strike on target. Kearney went to his bench to bring on James McLaughlin in a bid to take the lead but Stephen Baxter’s side would rue their luck as Gareth Deane made a superb stop to deny Declan Caddell, before Heatley arrowed over when well positioned inside the area. However, the chance of the game would arrive on 86 minutes as a superb delivery into the box by BJ Burns met Adam Lecky at the back post. The substitute looked destined to find the back of the net but his header went wide of the far post.
Last month, Seaview would be the venue with the hosts getting a foot hold into the game and threatening on 14 minutes as Gareth Deane dived low to keep out Ross Clarke’s effort, before Jordan Owens fired over the crossbar from Jordan O’Rourke’s clever cut back. On 21 minutes, a good passage of play from the Crues resulted in Philip Lowry blazing over from just outside the area. Two minutes later, the Stripes would launch a counter attack which saw McKendry bend an effort over Tuffey’s net. However, the deadlock would be broken on 26 minutes as Coleraine fell sleep from a quick free-kick which allowed Lowry to squeeze the ball under the body of Deane. Oran Kearney’s men looked to bounce back from that setback and should have had an instant equaliser as great play involving Jamie Glackin, Matthew Shevlin and Bradley released McKendry inside the box, but just when the winger looked like rattling the net, he would be denied at close range by Tuffey as Crusaders survived. Tuffey would once again come to Crusaders’ rescue as he made a smart stop to prevent Shevlin, whilst at the other end, a trademark left foot strike by Ben Kennedy looked to be heading goal bound before Deane somehow tipped the effort around the post for a corner kick. Chances would be at a premium in the second 45 minutes with substitute Johnny McMurray testing the gloves of Deane, with Stephen O’Donnell going close with a header from a corner kick. The travelling support would be left frustrated on 84 minutes as Patrick Kelly released Glackin inside the box with the winger would be thwarted by Tuffey. Just a minute later, a header forward by Josh Carson found substitute Curtis Allen but the marksman arrowed wide from an acute angle.
“We will get back to the training pitch and get working hard,” Kearney said.
“We’ve a lot in the legs, we’ve a lot of work in this year and I still feel that on our day that if we can field what we want to field, we’re a match for anybody in this league.
“I think over the course of this season and you look at all the teams in the top six, we’ve had those days this season.
“We’ve also had days like against Larne when it hasn’t gone well against sides in the top six as well.
“I think the reasons against Larne are quite obvious in relation to personnel and players that we don’t have at our disposal at this point in time.
“The big emphasis for us with medical and fitness staff is number one trying to get as many bodies back as possible, not for the end of the season, but ideally for the last three or four games because you want to get minutes as Jamie Glackin hasn’t played since the Cup final, Conor McKendry picked up an injury at Warrenpoint and hasn’t played for a few weeks as well.
“It’s not just about getting people back and rolling them out at the start of May, ideally you want them back three or four weeks before that to ensure that they’ve two or three games behind them.”
The match referee will be Ben McMaster.
The assistant referees are Stephen Donaldson and John Doherty.
The fourth official is yet to be allocated.
The match sponsor is Radio Taxis, Coleraine.
Mark Docherty and Robin Hamilton have kindly agreed to sponsor the match ball.
The mascots tomorrow afternoon are Lucas, Bobby, Noah and Max, and they will have the honour of leading out the team.
The Man of the Match award will be sponsored by Holley Optometrists.
Season tickets are valid for the fixture, although, non-season ticket holders will require matchday tickets for the fixture which can be bought online HERE.
Crusaders fans will also need tickets to enter the stadium which can be purchased HERE.
Both sets of supporters are kindly asked to read the following matchday arrangements HERE.
If you are not feeling yourself tomorrow afternoon and you have symptoms which you feel are similar to COVID-19, please stay away from the stadium and think of others.
If you have access to a lateral flow/PCR test at home, we would encourage you to check yourself before coming to the game.
If you have been in contact with a positive case and haven’t yet been contacted by track and trace, please do not come to the game.
As ever, those unable to watch the fixture can follow the latest developments via the club’s official Twitter account (@ColeraineFC).