In-form Coleraine hope to extend unbeaten run against third-placed Crusaders

Oran Kearney's Coleraine are on a 14-game unbeaten run in the league
Andy Watters

IN-FORM Coleraine host third-placed Crusaders at the Showgrounds tonight (7.30pm, live on BBC2 NI) hoping to cut Linfield’s lead at the top of the Irish Premiership to just two points.

Oran Kearney’s men are on a remarkable 14-game unbeaten run in the league (11 wins and three draws) stretching back to December 5 when they lost 2-0 to the Blues at Windsor Park. Meanwhile, the unpredictable Crues can cut the gap between themselves and their hosts to just a point and they need victory to stay in touch after an on-off recent run that has seen them lose four and win four of their last eight outings; a sequence that included reverses versus bottom-half of the table sides Warrenpoint, Carrick Rangers and Glenavon.

Stephen Baxter’s side go into tonight’s game having avenged that loss to Carrick with a morale-boosting 3-1 win at Taylor’s Avenue on Tuesday night. The Crues had fallen behind early on but rallied impressively with goals from Jamie McGonigle, Chris Hegarty and Michael Ruddy.

Meanwhile, Coleraine enjoyed a mid-week rest and manager Kearney is certain that the break from action will have helped his players to recharge.

"It's been relentless,” he said.

“For us there are players that were close to playing against Dungannon (3-2 win last Saturday), like Stephen O'Donnell, Aaron Traynor and James McLaughlin, but the risk of throwing one of those players in for one game and losing them for another 10 was outweighed by getting another two or three sessions in before next week.

"Hopefully, we'll have players coming in and we can retain the ones that are there because it's been a revolving door."

Coleraine’s unbeaten run has seen them pick up 36 points out of a possible 42. It began with a 2-1 home win over Warrenpoint Town in the wake of their Europa League loss against Motherwell.

“We needed that catalyst with Stewart Nixon scoring that last-minute winner against Warrenpoint,” said Kearney.

"From there, we've started to look like ourselves again. I would put it down to that, the experience and the journey over the summer, a lot of players just struggled to come to terms with coming back to playing in our league again more than anything else."

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