Crusaders skipper Colin Coates hailed Saturday’s ‘massive’ win for the league leaders as they took a huge step towards the Gibson Cup.
The Crues’ 5-1 demolition of Coleraine coupled with Linfield’s 1-0 defeat at Glenavon means one hand is on the trophy.
Coates though is determined to keep his side focused on the job in hand as they travel to Windsor Park this Saturday knowing a victory will all but secure them their first league title since 1997
“Yeah, the boys are obviously buoyant after our result and hearing the Linfield score,” said Coates afterwards.
“It shows how important our win here today was. If we had slipped up and then heard they had dropped points it would have been disappointing for us.
“Being nine points ahead with five games to go and having a great goal difference we are in a really strong position, but we have to make sure we keep things right and make sure the boys don’t get too carried away this week.
“Linfield certainly won’t be giving up on anything that’s for sure. They will be thinking if they beat us at Windsor next week it’s back down to six points again.
“So we have to go there and make sure we do another professional job.
“This last week in training was a great week and we have to replicate that and get our heads down. If we can keep it tight at the back and in midfield we have the fire power to cause them problems.”
Many would have looked at the Coleraine game as a tricky tie for the Crues coming off the back of last week’s Irish Cup semi final defeat to Glentoran.
But Coates said he and his team-mates thrive on the pressure of being champions-elect.
“I think everybody is aware of the situation and where we are at and to be honest I think it’s a good thing for us,” he said.
“Last week against Glentoran the pressure was slightly off and we didn’t perform. When the pressure has been on this year we have delivered. We scored five goals today and probably weren’t at our best, so if we can keep doing that we’ll be okay.
“Credit to Coleraine they put it up to us in the first 20 minutes, we were on the back foot a bit and maybe not playing too well and they scored the penalty.
“Thankfully though we equalised pretty quickly and that makes a big difference.
“Jordan Owens was brilliant again in the first half scoring a couple of great goals, and Paul Heatley popped up with two in the second half.
“That’s what they do and they have been doing it all season. I think they are there or there abouts at the top of the goal scoring list now.
“It’s great having that fire power because we know at the back if we can keep clean sheets or keep it to one goal we’ve every chance of winning the game.”
Boss Stephen Baxter afforded himself a wry smile when asked about extending the lead at the top following Saturday’s results, but he knows the job is finished just yet.
“You would take our position all day long, that’s just something you dream about,” he said.
“Theoretically though we still need to get that job done and there won’t be any celebrating or the like until it is done.
“Obviously there is a great jubilation after we heard the Linfield score.
“But we’ll bring it all back down to earth again on Tuesday and make sure we have our eye on the ultimate goal.”