Crusaders captain Colin Coates is a man on a mission against Cliftonville

Crusaders skipper Colin Coates
Crusaders skipper Colin Coates

Crusaders skipper Colin Coates knows a win on Friday night against Cliftonville is vital as the Shore Road outfit look to put a mixed start to their season behind them.

Last season’s champions sit seventh in the standings after nine games and are nine points behind early leaders Glenavon.

But last Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Institute will have lifted spirits at Seaview and Coates says they are determined to get their season heading in the right direction.

“The win against Institute was much needed and will help us going forward.

“We haven’t made the start to the league campaign that we would have wanted but maybe we were a bit complacent at the start of the season and just expected things to happen.

“And to fair in a squad of 25 you usually have two or three off form - but there are not to many of us that can say we have performed well or that we are playing to our maximum.

“It has been frustrating as we have been creating lots of chances and not taking them, while it looked as if we were going to concede every time a side attacked us.

“And football is a funny old game it just seemed that everything was going against us.

“It was like last Saturday at Institute. Their guy hit a shot from 25-30 yards and it flies in off the woodwork.

“So the result against Institute was good for us but we are working very hard and would fought our way out of it.”

And Coates says tonight’s clash with Cliftonville will be a tight affair as both sides need to get points on the board.

“They have started the season a wee bit like ourselves. They have not had the start they would have wanted and they are not playing as they would like. They - like us - are not where they want to be.

“Both sides will be looking to get league points on the board and I expect a tough game.

“It’s a north Belfast derby so it will be all blood and thunder, but we are looking forward to it.

“It is also great that the game if being shown live on BBC television.

“It is great for the local game to be getting this exposure on the BBC and Sky Sports.

“It gives some of the local young talent from here a chance to make an impression and get some exposure.”

And Cliftonville chalked up a third straight win on Saturday with a 3-1 home victory over Ards but boss Barry Gray wants more from his side.

“North Belfast derbies are always massive challenges - it doesn’t matter what form either team is in,” he said.

“It’s going to be a huge contest and it’s going to be feisty.

“Our performance levels against Ards will not get us a win at Seaview so we’ve a lot of work to do to make sure we’re prepared.”

And Gray was pleased with his side after their win against Ards last weekend.

“The players kept faith in what they were doing and trusted in themselves that the goal would come.. We knew we could be so much better and I think the start to the second-half showed that when we could have scored twice in the opening minute.

“That set the tone and the players kept going.

“The longer you go without scoring, there can be a tendancy to deviate from your plan, start going long more often and resort to the sort of measures you don’t really want to be using, but the pleasing thing is that didn’t happen.”