Stephen O’Donnell celebrates home ‘buzz’ as Coleraine get ready to host Linfield

Coleraine defender Stephen O’Donnell has paid tribute to the off-the-field X Factor helping create The Showgrounds’ feelgood factor at the heart of such strong home form.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 2:36 am

The Bannsiders welcome the defending Premiership champions to town today with the chance to leapfrog Linfield in the senior standings.

Only three points and three goals split the sides before the high-stakes showpiece clash.

The Blues hit the road aware the sole reverse suffered in defence of the Gibson Cup has arrived on the road following last month’s Seaview setback at Crusaders.

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Coleraine’s Stephen O’Donnell battling to home joy last month over Larne. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

They visit a Coleraine side who had to wait until late September for the chance to step out on the newly-installed synthetic surface but with five wins and two draws across subsequent appearances at The Showgrounds.

Coleraine can also draw confidence from six clean sheets across that sparkling start as Larne became the only side to clock up a spot on the visitors’ scoresheet during last month’s home date.

“We definitely are on the crest of a wave here with the fans and there’s a great buzz about the place,” said O’Donnell. “It’s great that we’re at the ground a lot more now and the pitch is brilliant.

“But to create a buzz and a feelgood factor you have to be winning games.

“We’ve done that and everyone in the town has got on board.

“The biggest testament of that was when Cliftonville won the toss (in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw) and they turned us around as they didn’t want us playing into the Railway End in the second half.

“Long may that buzz continue.

“The pitch has definitely kicked us on.

“For any of us who have been here long-term we know it was always around this time of year when the pitch started cutting up.

“You wouldn’t be playing short passes in your own half as you would be worrying about someone’s touch.

“So it’s fantastic to have that surface now.

“When we first got it laid it took a while to bed in, but it’s just got quicker and quicker.

“We train on it so we’re used to it and love it.

“It has given us the opportunity to play out from the back and play through the thirds a lot more than we maybe would have done in the past.

“This is what we’re in football for.

“We want to play in front of big crowds, play in big games and score big goals.”

A midweek meeting with Glentoran was postponed in line with NIFL’s Covid Case Policy and now Coleraine host another side operating on full-time terms in Linfield.

David Healy’s Linfield squad trail league leaders Cliftonville by just two points and can boast the benefit of having played one game fewer.

“Linfield are coming here on Saturday, which is another massive game for us in front of what will be another huge crowd,” said O’Donnell. “Hopefully we can take maximum points.

“All credit to the full-time teams if you’re able to do that.

“But for ourselves and the likes of Cliftonville we’re going to our work and putting a shift in as well.

“And that’s the case for a lot of players throughout the league.

“We played Larne the other Friday night (in November’s 3-1 win for Coleraine) and our boys were finishing work at five o’clock, grabbing a sandwich on the way up the road.

“But we were still able to produce a performance.

“I think our group and our mentality gives us an extra five or 10 per cent which allows us to level out with the full-time teams.”

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