Colin Coates willing to play patient waiting game as Crusaders target title glory

Colin Coates had been relishing another battle with Linfield on Saturday
Colin Coates had been relishing another battle with Linfield on Saturday

Skipper Colin Coates is happy to play a patient waiting game if it means Crusaders landing a first title in 18 years.

The Crues should be preparing for their biggest game of the season against chief rivals Linfield at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Boasting a nine-point lead with just five games remaining, victory would effectively clinch the Gibson Cup for the Shore Road men.

But on Thursday the crunch fixture was postponed due to ongoing safety fears at Windsor Park.

The West Stand – affectionately known as the Kop – was sealed off on Tuesday over concerns of possible subsidence after cracks were discovered in the structure.

And following a subsequent structural damage report the NI Football League has pulled the plug on Saturday’s fixture.

Linfield will now meet Crusaders at a later late – and most likely at a neutral venue.

It means Coates will not play again until April 18, with the club captain beginning a two-game ban on Monday.

The 29-year-old defender will miss tricky away fixtures at Portadown (April 7) and Cliftonville (April 11) before returning for the visit of Glentoran to Seaview on April 18.

It could see the club stalwart sidelined for Crusaders’ defining title-winning moment – a prospect that only heightens his frustration at Saturday’s postponement.

“We were looking forward to going to Windsor on Saturday. We wanted to go there and finish the job,” he said.

“We knew if we won at Windsor that the title race was basically over. Our goal difference is far superior so it would have taken a miracle for Linfield to turn things around.

“Saturday was definitely a title decider for us, and the postponement has left a lot of us pretty deflated.

“Also the fact that I am suspended for two games from Monday means I will miss out on a couple of massive fixtures.

“Saturday’s postponement probably plays into Linfield’s hands a little bit, but it doesn’t bother us.

“We will just refocus for Tuesday’s trip to Portadown. We never get it easy at Shamrock Park and we expect a tough battle once again.

“They are scrapping for the European spots so we know how difficult it will be.”

Crusaders’ hopes of an historic double were dashed by Glentoran two weeks ago.

A 1-0 defeat at Mourneview Park saw the Crues crash out at the semi-final stage.

They bounced back with a superb 5-1 victory at Coleraine last week, however, proving they are up for the fight in the title run-in.

“People have been waiting for our wheels to come off. They have been waiting for one bad result to snowball into two or three defeats. But we have handled the pressure,” Coates added.

“We lost in the cup and came back with a 5-1 win at Coleraine. We were 1-0 down in that game but we responded.

“We were recently a goal behind against Ballymena United but came back to win 3-1, so I don’t think people can question our mettle.”

Coates has won every domestic honour available during 12 glorious years in Crusaders’ first team – including the all-Ireland Setanta Cup.

The only trophy missing from his CV is the Gibson Cup.

“This would be the icing on the cake,” he said.

“We are determined not to let this lead slip. We won’t win the title on Saturday, but we want to finish the job as quick as we can.”