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

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 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.

Belfast Telegraph