Crusaders Colin Coates knows Reds Joe Gormley has to treated with caution

Crusaders Colin Coates  in action with Cliftonville's Joe Gormley
Crusaders Colin Coates in action with Cliftonville's Joe Gormley

Crusaders skipper Colin Coates insists it’s crucial his team puts the brakes on free-scoring Joe Gormley in the Boxing Day derby against Cliftonville at Solitude.

The big striker has been on fire this season - he already has hit the net on 26 occasions.

Both sides approach the Festive bonanza after contrasting results. Tommy Breslin’s team lost only their fourth game of the campaign last week when beaten by Glentoran, while the Crues sneaked a home 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts. More significantly they now both trail table toppers Linfield by four points.

“We were able to shut out Joe the last time at Seaview when we beat them 4-1,” said Coates.

“He has formed a good understanding with Davy McDaid, who is equally dangerous. He likes to come deep and creates a lot of chances for Gormley, so we’ll also need to stop McDaid.

“Basically, we know we can afford to give Gormley a chance. You literally have to try and restrict his opportunities.

“It will be a difficult job. We managed to do it at Seaview, but it will be even more difficult up at their place. We’ll be doing our homework on him, I can ensure you.”

Coates added that the packed North Belfast venue will be no place for the feint-hearted.

“It never is,” laughed Coates. “It’s a good place to go and play. The atmosphere is always good, particularly at the home end. They are noisy bunch.

“It’s just one of those games you just want to play in. There is no doubt, we’ll have to be on our game. We can’t afford to let the things that goes on, in terms of the big home support, get to us.

“I’ve certainly gained a lot of experience from playing in those type of matches over the years.

“There are plenty of us that can help the younger lads, they likes of Gavin Whyte. It’s going to be a big game for him . . . a big crowd and a tense atmosphere. I’ve no doubt that his ability will shine through.”

Reds boss Tommy Breslin insists it’s vital for his team to get back on a winning track after their shock defeat by Glentoran at the weekend.

“We lacked a bit of sparkle in our finishing at the Oval,” admitted Breslin. “In saying that, I thought we were the best team. We were caught out right at the finish.

“So, it’s important we respond in what is always a difficult derby game.”