COLERAINE head into Saturday’s home Carling Premiership clash with Portadown (3pm kick off) knowing that as far as European qualification is concerned, their destiny is in their own hands.
With three games remaining, Coleraine know that three victories will ensure they finish in one of the Carling Premiership’s two Europa League qualification places, but those three fixtures are sure to prove exceptionally testing, with Portadown up first, followed by back-to-back trips to Belfast to face Linfield and Crusaders.
Manager Oran Kearney is delighted that his team heads into the final week of the season with something tangible to aim for, but knows how important defeating Portadown is.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve had to hope other results go our way, so it’s nice to be in the position where we’re in control of our destiny,” he told www.colerainefc.com on Thursday. “At the same time, we know that if we don’t get the win on Saturday our chances of getting into Europe are probably finished, so it’s a hugely important game.
“I’m glad that with three games left we still have something to play for. It makes for a much better end to the season for everyone and there’s a good buzz about the squad in training this week.”
Kearney also revealed that Coleraine have a number of injuries to deal with, Michael Doherty’s season is over after a knee operation earlier in the week, while Ciaran Clarke will sit out the remaining games and Aaron Canning is rated extremely doubtful after he was injured against Glentoran.
“Doc has been carrying a knee problem since around Christmas and has soldiered on through a good bit of the season with it, but it’s something that needed sorted and he went in for an operation on Monday. It was a success and he’s going to miss the last three games and will work towards being ready in time for pre-season.
“The same goes for Ciaran Clarke, who has been hampered on-and-off with a groin problem since November. Alan Millar has helped him manage it well and he’s been able to play for most of the season, but it has flared up again to the point where we’ve just decided that it’s best for him to sit out the rest of the season. He’s going to rest for about six weeks and will be going for a scan as well in the coming weeks.
“Aaron Canning took a bad knock in the Glens game, but thankfully there’s nothing broken and the swelling is coming down well, but it’s touch-and-go whether he’ll be involved again this season.”
On the plus side, Coleraine welcome Howard Beverland back after he missed the Cliftonville and Glentoran games through suspension.
Those unable to make it to the game can follow Coleraine FC on twitter (@ColeraineFC or http://twitter.com/colerainefc) to get team news and score updates from 3pm.