New 4G pitch suits Coleraine: Defender Aaron Traynor

Coleraine's Aaron Traynor says the new pitch will help their title challenge

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Coleraine v Linfield (today, 3pm)

COLERAINE’S Aaron Traynor insists the new artificial 4G pitch installed at Ballycastle Road is getting the best out of the Bannsiders’ ball players and feels they can mount a serious title challenge this season.

Speaking ahead of today’s home tie with league champions Linfield, Traynor says the new pitch is tougher on the body but felt the old grass pitch wasn’t doing them any favours in their pursuit of the Gibson Cup.

“The artificial pitch has definitely made us change our style,” said Traynor.

“We have some good ball players, the likes of Stephen Lowry, Jamie Glackin and Conor McKendry. If you put them on a cow field they can’t show their ability but with this pitch you can see we’ve went up another level.

“The previous pitch gave us a bit of trouble; I think it gave everybody a bit of trouble. It’s definitely picked the pace up in our game because it’s such a quick surface. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s maybe sore on the legs but it’s much better to play on.”

Coleraine are the fourth Irish Premiership club to opt for a synthetic surface over grass with Larne, Crusaders and Cliftonville the others.

Traynor also feels the 4G surfaces are adding to the aesthetics of the local game.

“I watched the Cliftonville-Larne game and you’re seeing Irish League teams standing off a bit and letting teams play it about the back.

“Years ago, that would’ve been unheard of. It was blood and thunder, you kicked the ball up, you ran after it and beat the life out of each other! But now I think the pitches are better and players can show their ability. If you close someone down too quickly they’ll pass it around you.”

Coleraine, who finished runners-up the last two seasons, are currently sitting fourth but are within striking distance of the top and can move up a couple of rungs if they can inflict the second league defeat on the Blues today.

“I’ve been with Coleraine for five years and very rarely do we get turned over at our place. It is a bit of a fortress. We’re over a year unbeaten on it in the league. And on this new pitch we’ve played six games and conceded just one goal. So something’s going right for us. We’re getting used to it quicker than we thought.”

Traynor is confident Coleraine can mount another title challenge this season even though rival clubs have greater resources, some of whom are full-time too.

“If I was full-time and getting double the wage of somebody who’s full-time, getting the recovery that they’re getting and working on tactics, I’d expect to win every game - or at least win the vast majority of them and finish above a part-time player and part-time team.

“Do we use it to our advantage? Probably. We love the underdog tag as it sits with us very, very well,” added the west Belfast man.

“We only train two nights a week but the nights we do train we are well looked after. We have a gym facility, the pitch, a sauna, food that comes in after every training session. So we’re as good as what part-time can be. But teams that are full-time, even their squad-size, it does sway towards them. But we’re always there or thereabouts but I don’t play in this league not to win it.”

Meanwhile, Cliftonville will look to increase their lead at the top of the table at home to Ballymena United, while second-placed Glentoran hope to keep the pressure on the Reds by winning at home to Portadown.

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