In-form Coleraine can leapfrog Cliftonville to land third place spot says experienced defender David Ogilby

Experienced Coleraine defender David Ogilby (right) says the Bannsiders targeted a strong start to 2017 after suffering false dawns in previous years

Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine v Dungannon Swifts (today, 3pm, The Showgrounds)

THE top two may be out of reach but in-form Coleraine can leapfrog Cliftonville into third place by the time the season draws to a close, according to experienced defender David Ogilby.

Oran Kearney’s Bannsiders have won their last seven games in all competitions, and their charge up the league table has brought them to within six points of the Solitude side with 11 games left to play.

Table-toppers Crusaders and second-placed Linfield may be out of reach as they battle it out for the Gibson Cup but, with two games against the Reds still to come, third place remains up for grabs.

“The top two are away but Cliftonville are third - we play them twice before the season ends so that has to be a realistic target for us,” said Ogilby.

“We’re in a good bit of form, obviously we’re still in the Irish Cup and securing our place in the top six for that European play-off. That was the target from the start of the season.”

First things first though, Ogilby and Coleraine want to make it eight from eight when they welcome Dungannon Swifts to Ballycastle Road today.

Rodney McAree’s Swifts have plenty to play for themselves as they sit in seventh place with six games to go until the league splits into the top six and bottom six for the remainder of the campaign.

And, although their form has been patchy in recent weeks, the Swifts – who could welcome back defender Chris Hegarty from injury - are unbeaten in their two games against Coleraine so far this season, winning 4-0 at Stangmore Park back in August and drawing 2-2 later in the year.

“We haven’t done too well against them this year,” admits 32-year-old Ogilby, who is in his seventh season at The Showgrounds.

“In the first game it was men against boys to be honest. I don’t think anybody would disagree with me on that, they were brilliant that day.

“We’ve a score to settle with them and hopefully we can do that tomorrow.”

Coleraine have come a long way since that initial setback.

Their current winning streak landed Kearney the January manager of the month award and, after a disappointing December that saw them take just four points from a possible 15, Ogilby says they were determined to start the year in positive fashion.

He added: “We hit a bit of a slump [in December] but the games we lost, there was very little in them. That’s the way football goes sometimes, but we’ve shown good character to bounce back.

“At the turn of the year we put it to bed, put it behind us and decided to concentrate on January.

“In the previous few years January has been disappointing for us so we wanted to make something of it this year to put ourselves in a good position going into the final months of the season.”

And with a winning run comes expectation. They will be fancied to take care of Dungannon this afternoon, but Ogilby knows from experience that they can take nothing for granted.

“When you’re on a run people just expect you to win but in the Irish League nobody hands you three points, every three points is hard earned,” said the former Institute defender.

“We went away to Ballinamallard three weeks ago and we beat them 2-1, but they run us right through to the 90th minute. We drew with Ards before Christmas, it was a very difficult game, so you have to always focus on the job at hand.”

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