Bannsiders target a ninth successive win

Bannsiders target a ninth successive win

Stewart Nixon opened his goalscoring account for Coleraine in midweek.

By Damian Mullan

Reporter:

By Damian Mullan

Email:

sport@thechronicle.uk.com

COLERAINE travel to Ballymena this weekend, looking to maintain their blistering recent form.

The Bannsiders have won their last eight games in succession, making them one of the form teams in the Danske Bank Premiership.

The impressive run has seen them annex the Bet McLean League Cup, qualify for the semi-finals of the Sadlers Peaky Blinders Irish Cup and move to within four points of leaders Linfield at the top of the league.

And, if all that wasn't enough, manager Oran Kearney has, for almost the first time this season, a fully fit squad to choose from.

The last remaining injured player - midfielder Ben Doherty - is expected to be included in Saturday's squad, after missing a large chunk of games since the turn of the year with a hamstring problem.

It represents a huge boost to the treble-chasing Showgrounds side but also presents the boss with a headache - albeit a welcome one - just who to pick for the trip up the A26?

Whoever gets the nod, they will know they could be in for a difficult afternoon: their opponents may be languishing at the opposite end of the form table - one point from a possible 27 since New Year - but as we all know derbies are different from normal league games.

There's no doubt that Ballymena players, management and supporters would love nothing better than to derail their rivals' title challenge - and lay down a marker for the clubs' Irish Cup semi-final at the end of this month.

David Jeffrey's men have experienced a dramatic fall from grace in the past year.

This time 12 months ago, they were looking up, hot on the heels of eventual champions Linfield; now, they are looking over their shoulder, keen to avoid being drawn into a relegation battle.

But, they remain capable of producing a big performance. They arguably should have defeated Cliftonville to land the County Antrim Shield and gained a morale-boosting win over Ballinamallard Utd a week ago.

They have a number of big players back from injury which should provide them with renewed hope with just eight league games remaining.

However, they will need to produce one of their best performances of the campaign to get anything from Saturday's game against a confident Coleraine.

The group, under the unrivalled managerial talents of Ballymoney schoolteacher Kearney, have taken their game to another level.

They clearly enjoy playing with one another and have fostered a winning mentality which all good teams possess. They also appear hungry for more silverware.

Of course, anything can happen in football as we all know, but all things being equal, the visitors should have too much for their hosts at the Warden Street Showgrounds.

COLERAINE (from): Johns, Kane, Mullan, Canning, Douglas, Jarvis, Doherty, Lowry, McLaughlin, Bradley, Carson, McConaghie, O'Donnell, Parkhill, Glackin, Traynor, McGuckin, Fitzpatrick, Gallagher, Allen, Nixon.

BALLYMENA UNITED (from): Ross Glendinning, T. Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, Winchester (Balmer, 59), Lecky, Reece Glendinning, Kelly, Williamson, K. Kane, Burns, Millar, Warnock, Owens.

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