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Bannsiders relishing Ballymena battle

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aaron.oneil@thechronicle.uk.com

NEWLY appointed Coleraine manager Rodney McAree is set for his first clash against derby rivals Ballymena United when the Bannsiders welcome the Sky Blues to the Showgrounds this evening (K.O. 7.45pm).

The Stripes will be hoping to register their first win under the new management regime as they face off against David Jeffrey's side in the opening derby match of the new Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

Having enjoyed an unbeaten start to the 2018/19 season it has been a frustrating few weeks for Coleraine. The departure of Oran Kearney, coupled with a recent run of draws against Institute, Ards and Linfield sees McAree's men slip to fourth in the table.

Saturday's home draw with Linfield sets things up nicely as Coleraine will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways. Coleraine had ample chances to clinch the win last time out with striker Jamie McGonigle the most likely outlet. Unable to find the net, Messrs McGonigle, Bradley and co. will be focussed on taking their chances this time around.

The visitors have endured an indifferent start to the season and have yet to play a home games so far after the pitch at Warden Street was re-laid in the closed season. The Sky Blues will be more determined than ever on Tuesday evening as they aim to forget the weekend's late defeat on the road to Cliftonville.

The fixture has served up some stellar battles in recent seasons with no love lost between the sides. Last season the teams met on three separate ocassions, Coleraine enjoyed the bragging rights as they tasted victory on two ocassions. Stephen O’Donnell and Jamie McGonigle powered the Bannsiders to victory at the start of the season followed up by a stalemate on Boxing Day. The remaining fixture of last season was played at Warden Street back in April and it was again the Bannsiders who came away with all three points as Darren McCauley and Eoin Bradley

McAree is all set for his first A26 derby as Coleraine boss but highlighted the fact that he will be relishing the oppurtunity.

“I went to one of the derbies last year at Ballymena and it's probably a different atmosphere to the match we have just had against Linfield,” he said.

“It's a derby and everyone looks forward to them no matter what club you're involved with you look forward to your derby day so we will look forward to it.”

A win for Coleraine against their bitter rivals Ballymena would put the Bannsiders back in touch with table toppers Linfield, who currently find themselves five points clear at the summit having played a game more. If Coleraine are to muster a win, it will be no easy task. The Bannsiders are somewhat depleted with Lyndon Kane and Gareth McConaghie missing through injury.

Aaron Burns limped out of Saturday's 0-0 draw against Linfield with a calf strain whilst Josh Carson has missed the last two games as he recovers from a knee injury. James McLaughlin made the bench against Linfield as he nears a return afterpicking up a hamstring injury a number of weeks ago.

Low on numbers, the new Coleraine boss hinted that he may look to add a few faces in the next transfer window.

“I think there is a lack in depth to be honest, we work along with low enough numbers and have a 22 man squad including three goalkeepers and a 17 year-old so it might need a little depth added to it.

“If you have everyone fit you have a team that is capable of beating anyone on their day and they'll surely win more games than they will lose but it could be a little stronger in depth to give us more options,” said McAree.

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