BALLYMENA UNITED 0 COLERAINE 1
ORAN Kearney lauded his players for overcoming the fatigue factor to post another away-day victory at derby rivals Ballymena United.
A first-half goal by Curtis Allen - his 16th goal of the season - delivered another vital three points for the Bannsiders ahead of Monday night’s Setanta Cup second leg clash with Shamrock Rovers.
The result sees the Bannsiders move up to fourth place in the Premiership.
Coleraine have now won 11 and drawn two of their last 13 competitive fixtures against the Sky Blues.
Delighted Coleraine boss Oran Kearney said: “From the outset, I knew coming to Ballymena after the week we had and the energy we expended on Monday night, that it definitely wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park.
“We knew that we probably wouldn’t dominate the game for 90 minutes and that we might not be on tip-top form but they key thing was that we got a goal.
“Our second half performance probably had one eye on Monday night, as much as I drove it into the players not to think about it.
“The only factor was pure fatigue in that we’ve had a monstrously busy week.”
Allen scored the winner with 19th-minute header after being left unmarked in the box.
The former Linfield striker found the net after a fine-build-up with Ruairi Harkin passing for Jamie Tomelty to cross.
Praising Allen, boss Kearney said: “Curtis arrived with us as a striker who scored a lot of goals but we have asked him to play a different role this year.
“The way he has developed this year, from a coaching staff point of view, is a source of great pride because he arrived with us as a very good striker and he is now a superb striker because his link-up play and all the aspects of his game which people said maybe didn’t exist before are now there for all to see.”
The Coleraine manager hopes his side can build on recent momentum: “We did hit a lull for a three or four game spell from the Boxing Day way at Ballymena we didn’t really turn the wheel after that.
“We had bitty performances but we weren’t our usual selves and it probably took last week’s game with the focus of the Irish Cup, only having one chance at it, and it really has brought the best out of us but thankfully we have kicked on to the point where we are building a wee bit of momentum.
“The key thing is top six. Every game is a big game and you couldn’t even prioritise them.
“We flogged the guys right to the end because we couldn’t afford to take the risk of dropping a couple of points.
“Top six is massive for us and if we can get in there, then we will see how far we can go from that.”
Ballymena had a few half chances to salvage something from the game with Howard Beverland blocking a Gary Liggett shot.
Gary Thompson wasted two chances and James McCabe had a late shot saved.
Looking ahead to the Shamrock Rovers clash, Kearney said: “We’ve been through a huge volume of games in the past couple of weeks and they have pretty much the pick of the best players from the whole of the South so the task we have ahead of us is a huge one.
“We had our ice baths on Friday, we had a pile of pizzas delivered after the game, we’ve been drinking Lucozade and we did a cooldown which we never do so with a 48-hour turnaround we’ve tried to tick every box in relation to leaving the players as fresh as possible.
“The players had done their side of the bargain by getting a result at Ballymena and we’ve done our side by trying to make sure they’re ready for Monday night so only time will tell.”