Eoin Bradley enjoys the physical battles with his old adversary

Eoin Bradley says there is utmost respect between himself and Colin Coates
Eoin Bradley says there is utmost respect between himself and Colin Coates

You always expect a few fireworks when Crusaders and Coleraine go head-to-head.

Saturday’s clash at Seaview was no different as first and second went to battle.

Leading the charge for their respective sides were Colin Coates and Eoin Bradley. Two modern day gladiators if you like.

They have had some titanic tussles down the years, and Saturday was another one for the scrapbook.

This time Skinner came out on top as he gave a masterclass in leading the line, and the hosts struggled to deal with him all afternoon.

There was nice moment deep in stoppage time when Bradley left the action to be replaced by James McLaughlin, he and Coates exchanged a handshake which summed up the respect they hold for each other.

“It’s good to see that,” Bradley said after the bruising encounter.

“Whenever you’re on the pitch you battle hard against each other, but you have the utmost respect for each other.

“At the end of the day it’s only a game of football.

“I really enjoyed the game and it was a good three points for us.”

Bradley won the penalty in the first half, which was coolly dispatched by Ben Doherty, and he came in for some close attention from the Crues defence.

But the 35-year-old thrives on it as he explained afterwards.

“I do enjoy the physical side of the game and the challenge,” he said.

“You get used to the manhandling.

“It was a tough, physical game, Crusaders are a physical team and so are we.

“So you expect it to be a real battle when we meet.

“But as a team it is great to come here and take the win.

“I probably missed a sitter near the end, but I’ll say my legs were gone as that was about 88 minutes.”

The result, Coleraine’s second win over the Crues this season, moves the Bannsiders above them to the league summit, but Bradley is not getting carried away just yet.

“It’s only one game, but it’s a good three points,” he said.

“It’s good to be up at the top of the league, but we will just take it one game at a time.

“We seem to have had a good run against the Crues, but it is tough.

“It’s only one game though and only three points, it doesn’t really matter any more than that at the minute.

“We’re only in October, there is a long way to go and we’ll have another couple of games against each other.”

Despite winning a penalty for his side Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney feels Bradley doesn't get enough protection from the officials.

Kearney feels his striker is often harshly treated when is comes to being awarded a free kick.

“In the early days with me there was more flashpoints and frustration possibly and with age and experience he is a harder man to rile now,” said Kearney.

“I think he has a stereotypical tag that hangs on him aswell because he is big and strong.

“What he has to do to earn a free kick is a lot more than a lot of other players in the league,” he added.