PREVIEW: COLERAINE v CRUSADERS (LIVE ON BBC TWO NI)

BBC Two NI’s coverage of the Danske Bank Premiership for 2020 kicks off tomorrow as Coleraine take on Crusaders at the Showgrounds (kick-off: 7.45pm)

In the first of two televised games this weekend, the Premiership title race will be broadcast across the country as it continues to heat up with no margin for error for either Coleraine or Crusaders.

The game is also a dress rehearsal for the BetMcLean League Cup final next month as the two sides will meet again at the National Stadium at Windsor Park to contest the showpiece final on 15 February.

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney could hand a debut to forward Matthew Fitzpatrick, the Antrim GAA star signed from Belfast Celtic recently and his now eligible to play his part in the promotion push. His signing has paved the way for striker Nedas Maciulaitis to move back to Annagh United on loan for the remainder of the season.

Matthew Snoddy has joined Glenavon on loan from Crusaders after finding first-team opportunities restricted due to injuries this season.

Recent Form

Coleraine have enjoyed a hectic but fruitful festive period, winning 3 of their last four games, including progression in the Irish Cup’s tie of the round against Glenavon at Mourneview Park last Saturday. Despite an uncharacteristic dip in form in early December, the home side have only lost one of their last seven outings in all competitions.

Since their Boxing Day defeat to Cliftonville, the Crues have regrouped to produce three wins with a dozen goals scored and none conceded as Stephen Baxter tackles 2020 knowing there is little margin for error. Crusaders comfortably defeated Dundela 3-0 on Saturday in the Irish Cup fifth round.

Last meetings

Coleraine have enjoyed a fine record against the Crues in recent times, winning five of the last six league meetings between the two sides, which includes those games earlier this season. Crusaders last won this fixture in the league back in February 2019 at Seaview, but also notched an important victory over Coleraine (then managed by Rodney McAree) in the semi-final of the Irish Cup last season at The Oval. Oran Kearney hasn’t lost to Crusaders in the Danske Bank Premiership since April 2017, when his side went 3-2 down at Seaview late in the season.

Players to watch

Coleraine – Winger Jamie Glackin has been reborn under Oran Kearney after taking time to settle into his new surroundings last January after moving from Friday night’s opponents Crusaders. Now one of the key attacking threats in the Bannsiders’ armoury, he has scored three league goals to date this season and also bagged one in Saturday’s Irish Cup win over Glenavon.

Crusaders – Another player coming up against his former club is striker Jamie McGonigle. The in-form hitman made the move to Belfast in January and hasn’t looked back with ten league goals to his name already. Could he come back to haunt the Bannsiders at his former stomping ground in front of the live television cameras this weekend?

Match Officials

Ian McNabb is the referee for this live game with Stephen Bell and Gavin Hegarty as assistant referees on the line. Declan Hassan is the fourth official.

Admission

Admission for this game is as usual for home supporters and pay at the gate for away supporters, no match tickets are required. Prices are set at £12 for adults and £8 for concessions. Information on Coleraine FC’s ticket policies and procedures can be found at www.colerainefc.com.

Watch live

The live coverage from the Coleraine Showgrounds is available on BBC Two NI as well as the BBC Sport website and BBC iPlayer from 7.30pm on Friday evening.

Tags:  Coleraine  Crusaders