CLIFTONVILLE 3 COLERAINE 1
DESPITE defeat by Cliftonville, Showgrounds supremo Oran Kearney believes his side has shown they have what it takes to get of their current dip in form.
Coleraine lost out to the league leaders at Solitude but for long parts of the game, with Lowry and Harkin pulling the strings in midfield, Coleraine had control of the match.
A lack of punch up front was the downfall and after a period of sustained Coleraine pressure Cliftonville broke away to make it 3-1 to destroy the Coleraine challenge.
Said Ballymoney man Oran: “Obviously there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a very disappointing result but I honestly feel there wasn’t much between the teams in terms of play. In fact we were probably the better side for the last 20 minutes of the first half and the first 25 minutes of the second.
“But unfortunately the difference between us was that they took their chances, while we didn’t make the most of ours.
“The first two goals we gave away were uncharacteristic of us and you can’t afford to give any team, especially one like Cliftonville, a two-goal head start. Although we rallied and got back into the game before the break, we really needed to take at least one of the chances we created because with the way Cliftonville’s forwards hold the ball up so well, we knew they had the potential to hurt us on the break and that’s what happened in the end.
“When you’re in a bad run of form, it just seems like all the little things go against you, even right down to the bounces of the ball. I’m never pleased to lose, but I can take positives from the fact the players put in a great shift and gave it a real go when it would have been easy to let their heads drop after it went to 2-0.
“I think the reaction they got from the supporters at the end shows that they appreciated their effort, even if the final little bit of quality was lacking on the day.
“It’s a real test of the mental toughness of this group of players, but I have no doubt that they won’t hide away and will emerge from this as stronger and better players.”
Kearney admitted he gambled in handing Portuguese winger Hugo Batista a first league appearance and that it was a gamble which didn’t pay off, leading to his substitution towards the end of the first half.
“We’ve been getting great reports about Hugo for a while now,” Kearney said. “Obviously he came on in the North West final and scored a great goal, but he’s been performing consistently well for the Reserves all season. I spoke to a couple of my former team mates after he had played against Linfield Swifts and they said he had caused them no end of problems all game.
“We had him in training this week and he showed up well, so I thought it was a risk worth taking including him and that perhaps the element of the unknown about him would work to our advantage. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out on the day and although he wasn’t directly responsible for anything that went wrong in the game, we just felt we needed to change things around to get back into the game.”
As well as getting a good reception from the away fans, a large number of Cliftonville’s support also showed their appreciation for Coleraine’s efforts by sportingly clapping the team off the field.