Coleraine keep on Linfield's tail thanks to win over Carrick
Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine 1 Carrick Rangers 0
THE Linfield juggernaut may keep on chuntering towards a third Irish League title in-a-row but there is at least one other team who are refusing to be shaken off by the Blues – Oran Kearney’s Coleraine.
While David Healy’s men staged a comeback win over Crusaders at Seaview on Friday night to put them 11 points clear at the top – Joel Cooper and Shayne Lavery grabbing the all-important goals – the Bannsiders bit right back on Saturday afternoon.
After a battling win over struggling Carrick Rangers, Coleraine are now eight behind the leaders and reigning champions, but with a potentially crucial two games in hand. With Coleraine facing a two game a week schedule between now and the end of the season, their manager is aware the pressure won’t let up any time soon.
“I think the grey hairs are increasing by the week at this stage,” Kearney said after Saturday’s narrow victory.
“I hate when people try to soften me up or soften the players up by saying ‘oh, it’s only Carrick’ or other teams down round the bottom of the league – it doesn’t exist in this league.”
After 70 plus minutes in which there was little quality on display, it was defender Aaron Canning who broke the deadlock against Niall Currie’s Carrick with an emphatic finish from close range. While both Eoin Bradley and Ben Doherty went close to doubling the home side’s advantage, Kearney had to settle for the single goal against what is a typically tough opponent.
“The biggest credit I can give Niall [Currie] is I don’t ever remember a time of playing Carrick in the last few seasons, at any stage, where we haven’t had our fill of it from them and had it really tough,” he added.
“We drilled that into players all week, everyone else is saying ‘they’ve played a huge amount of games, Linfield beat them seven, they were beat by Larne, they were beat by Glentoran and they’ve a few heavy games behind them’. For me, I don’t know why it is, but Carrick always turn up against us and we always have to go and earn our corn and we drilled that in Tuesday night, we drilled that in Thursday night.
“Thankfully, we had that level of focus on Saturday because it turned out to be quite a frustrating fixture but one where we’ve managed to get our three points in.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Cliftonville ’keeper Aaron McCarey produced two vital saves to prevent Larne taking maximum points away from Solitude. Reds defender Ryan O’Reilly also cleared a Davy McDaid shot off the line in a goalless draw that left both sides still in the fight for a top three finish.
Glentoran also remain very much in the thick of that fight thanks to a 3-1 home win over Glenavon. While a Luke McCullough own goal put the Lurgan Blues in front, Jay Donnelly equalised just 90 seconds later. A Dale Gorman strike and a late second from Donnelly sealed the Glens win.
Warrenpoint and Ballymena played out a 2-2 draw at Milltown, while Portadown secured a 1-0 victory on their trip to Dungannon.