Blues are the team to beat but Col­eraine and McAree rel­ish­ing re­turn to Wind­sor

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY STEVEN BEACOM BY STEVEN BEACOM

DANSKE BANK PRE­MIER­SHIP COL­ERAINE man­ager Rod­ney McAree be­lieves the team that fin­ishes above Lin­field this sea­son will win the league, though that won’t stop the Bannsid­ers from hav­ing a real go at Wind­sor Park to­day.

McAree and his play­ers en­joyed great suc­cess at the sta­dium at dif­fer­ent times last term and will en­ter the ground with uplift­ing mem­o­ries.

Col­eraine won the Ir­ish Cup un­der Oran Kear­ney on their last visit to Wind­sor while McAree was in charge of Dun­gan­non Swifts when they lifted the League Cup at the Na­tional Sta­dium.

“For my­self and the play­ers we have good mem­o­ries of win­ning tro­phies at Wind­sor Park,” said McAree.

“It is a ground you should look for­ward to go­ing to. It’s your na­tional sta­dium and there should be a good crowd at it and our play­ers should re­ally rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to go there and try and win the game.”

McAree is renowned for his hon­est as­sess­ments and be­lieves the Blues signed well in the sum­mer, bring­ing in qual­ity such as Joel Cooper, Daniel Kearns and Michael O’Con­nor who con­fu­sion has sur­rounded this week re­lat­ing to whether he is sus­pended or not for to­day.

The Col­eraine supremo said: “Lin­field have threats and can de­liver goals from all over the pitch so it will be a dif­fi­cult game for us. I think the team that fin­ishes above Lin­field at the end of the sea­son will win the league.”

McAree’s first game in charge of the Bannsid­ers was a score­less draw at home to Lin­field in Septem­ber. He had a tough run of fix­tures early on but be­lieves there have been signs lately that the play­ers are adapt­ing to his tac­tics and was pleased with last week­end’s cru­cial 2-1 win at In­sti­tute, se­cured by a Dar­ren Mc­Cauley dou­ble which saw them cut the gap on top two Gle­navon and Lin­field to 10 points.

“We de­feated In­sti­tute af­ter we had lost to Glen­toran in the League Cup though we played well at the Oval. I saw big im­prove­ments that night in how we played and how we ap­plied our­selves but

Good mem­o­ries: Rod­ney McAree and Col­eraine have won tro­phies at the Na­tional Sta­dium made poor mis­takes when we took the lead,” said McAree who says key de­fender Gareth McCon­aghie is ‘touch and go’ for the game with David Healy’s men.

“What we did at In­sti­tute was make sure when we took the lead that we man­aged the game bet­ter. We scored the sec­ond goal be­fore half-time which gave us some­thing to hang on to and it wasn’t un­til the later stages of the game that they scored.

“We man­aged the game well at In­sti­tute but I thought we could have played bet­ter. So, if there is a com­bi­na­tion of our last two per­for­mances we will give our­selves a re­al­is­tic op­por­tu­nity at Wind­sor.

“It was great for Dar­ren to score twice last week. He is a big player

for us and a very good player. Dar­ren has con­trib­uted well since I came in and his per­for­mances have been fan­tas­tic. Hope­fully on a big pitch and in a big arena like Wind­sor we can get an­other one of those.

“He is a player that has to be happy and I feel he is get­ting hap­pier. It has been a big change this sea­son for the play­ers and a big tran­si­tion be­cause some of them have spent the last five to seven years with Oran.

“I feel these last cou­ple of weeks they are start­ing to come around, there are more smiles on faces and I can see them en­joy­ing their foot­ball more thanPlay­ers they did in the first cou­ple of weeks.”

Col­eraine will be in­volved in BBC North­ern Ire­land’s next two tele­vised matches,

The NI Foot­ball League and BBC Sport NI yes­ter­day an­nounced de­tails of an­other live Danske Bank Pre­mier­ship broad­cast on BBC Two NI.

In the fourth sched­uled fix­ture, the Bannsid­ers visit to ti­tle chas­ing Gle­navon will now be played on Fri­day, De­cem­ber 14 with a 7.45pm kick-off.

Cov­er­age starts at 7.30pm, and view­ers can ac­cess via TV, the BBC Sport NI web­site and the BBC Sport app.

Sup­port­ers are re­minded that Col­eraine v Newry City on Fri­day, Novem­ber 30 will be live from the Col­eraine Show­grounds, also on BBC Two NI. WAR­REN­POINT boss Stephen McDon­nell was sec­onds away from an his­toric vic­tory over Lin­field last week­end.

But for a 96th minute equaliser from Andy Water­worth, Town would have se­cured their first win at Wind­sor Park fol­low­ing a bril­liant per­for­mance.

Same again you may think then when they take on league lead­ers Gle­navon at Mourneview Park to­day? Not ac­cord­ing to McDon­nell.

“Our idea is to go and get three points and we have planned all week for that,” said the Town man­ager, who has im­pressed many on­look­ers this sea­son.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent game, a dif­fer­ent op­po­nent and a dif­fer­ent style of team we will be play­ing. We’ll be adapt­ing to that.

“We have played ev­ery­one in the first round of fix­tures and I don’t think you go in with the same plan as the first round of games. We were ob­vi­ously pleased with how we per­formed against Lin­field but we will come up against dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.”

Ear­lier in the sea­son at Mill­town, Lur­gan Blues striker An­drew Mitchell de­liv­ered a high class for­ward dis­play in Gle­navon’s 4-2 suc­cess over Town. McDon­nell ap­pre­ci­ates the at­tack­ing qual­ity of Gary Hamil­ton’s side but be­lieves if his play­ers de­fend well they have ev­ery chance of turn­ing the pre­vi­ous re­sult be­tween the teams on its head.

“They are an ex­cit­ing side and fair play to Gary. He sticks to what he be­lieves in. Some peo­ple may say they are there to be got at be­cause they leave them­selves ex­posed but they are lethal go­ing for­ward in terms of their front four,” stated McDon­nell.

“They will pun­ish any lapse and they all score goals, then you also have to deal with Mark Sykes! They are a dan­ger­ous out­fit but they are a lit­tle like Cliftonville in that they do give you chances, so if you de­fend and keep your­selves in the game you will get op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“The last time we played them we scored twice and could have had more. We’ll cer­tainly go to Mourneview with a pos­i­tive mind­set.”

Gle­navon are aim­ing to bounce back af­ter only their sec­ond league de­feat of the sea­son last week, away to Bal­ly­mena.

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