Coleraine set to pounce on any Cliftonville weakness
Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine v Cliftonville (today, 3pm)
COLERAINE manager Rodney McAree is ready and waiting to take advantage of any lead in the legs of Cliftonville’s first 11 in this afternoon’s Danske Bank Premiership clash at the Showgrounds.
The Reds suffered a draining extra-time defeat to north Belfast rivals Crusaders in their County Antrim Shield quarter-final at Seaview on Tuesday night and will have to regroup quickly for today’s game.
Although Coleraine had their own midweek fixture – a 2-1 home win against Championship side Dergview in the North-West Cup quarter-final – McAree used the game as an opportunity to get a look at his younger squad members, giving most of his first team the night off.
“We have to be ready to take advantage of any tiredness among the Cliftonville players, but only time will tell if there’ll be any weariness among them or not,” said McAree.
“We’d our own game against Dergview, but that was a good opportunity for me to run the eye over a lot of the lads from the U20s.
“The only first-team players I put out were Stevie Douglas, Alex Gawne and Eoin Bradley, who got both our goals in his first game back from suspension.”
McAree has enjoyed a rocky start to his time at helm of Coleraine since taking over from Oran Kearney in September, not winning any of his first five games in charge.
However, the former Dungannon Swifts boss says he had seen a definite improvement in his squad ahead of last week’s morale boosting victory over Crusaders.
“We’d drawn far too many matches – four of them – and it wasn’t the start we’d wanted, but we’d only lost won, to Glenavon, and I could see improvements in training before last weekend,” he added.
“People’s application was much better and that was a big encouragement and, to be fair, I thought we’d get a performance last Saturday and I fancied us to take something from the game.
“But we’ll only know if we’ve really turned a corner tomorrow. The effort and the application will have to be exactly the same as it was against Crusaders if we are to get another result.”
Both the Bannsiders and Cliftonville have had stuttering starts to their seasons and sit within a point of one another in the Danske Bank Premiership table, in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Coleraine, for their part, are a full 10 points behind leaders Glenavon, but McAree thinks it is too early to be ruling any targets out.
“It’s very early to start wondering where anybody will be come the end of the season,” he said.
“We’ve left ourselves a bit of a mountain to climb, but a good run of wins can change all that.
“Come January, we’ll have a fair idea of what we can realistically achieve, but not until then.”
Although the return of Eoin Bradley will be a boost for Coleraine this afternoon, they will be without fellow forward James McLaughlin, who suffered a hamstring injury last Saturday.
Aaron Burns, meanwhile, is doubtful and faces a late fitness check.