Football/Soccer

Coleraine more than 'hanging in there' ahead of Glentoran clash

Oran Kearney continues to lead Coleraine to dizzy heights
Steven Beacom

FOR Coleraine the unwritten rule at the start of every season under Oran Kearney has become qualification for Europe though by the time the split comes around in the Irish Premiership, the Bannsiders boss also wants to be in with a realistic shot at the title.

As Kearney insists it's all about getting the 'job done' at this stage of the campaign starting tonight at home to Glentoran (7.30pm).

Behind champions Linfield in the table, this will be the second meeting in four days for their nearest challengers. On Tuesday at the Oval Coleraine were on course for a vital victory thanks to two Matthew Shevlin strikes only for Josh Carson to score a crazy own goal late on from 30 yards out to give the Glens a 2-2 draw.

The result meant that Coleraine moved to within nine points of leaders Linfield with seven matches left. For Glentoran the gap to their fiercest rivals is 11 but they do have a game in hand.

The east Belfast side face Coleraine and Cliftonville away and Larne at home before the split while the Bannsiders have this evening's clash and a trip to Ballymena United next weekend.

In that period both could do with gaining points on Linfield who host Ballymena tomorrow before meeting Glenavon at Mourneview Park prior to the league separating between the top six and bottom six for the final lap.

Only the title winners and runners-up are guaranteed European football next term and a massive boost to their finances. There is also a place for the Irish Cup victors with the fourth spot going to whoever delivers in the lottery of the play-offs.

Kearney has excelled in his two spells at the Coleraine helm turning them into a genuine force but knows without the money that Europe brings, his club will find it even tougher keeping up with full-time outfits.

On European ambitions, he said: "That's always been the focus. Probably for the last three, four, five seasons for me that's the target. It's nearly an unwritten rule to have the mindset where we will push to try and secure a European place.

"If we do that you are more than likely in and around the title race. In that we want to hang in there and want those last five games after the split to be important games for the club. We just need to get the job done."

Still looking up to first rather than focusing on second, Kearney was 'frustrated' by the midweek draw at Glentoran who themselves were disappointed by the result having taken the lead early on through Jay Donnelly.

To put pressure on the Blues the sides directly below them need victories. Linfield would happily take another draw this evening.

There are three other Danske Bank Premiership matches tonight, moved to avoid a clash with Prince Philip's funeral tomorrow afternoon. Fourth placed Larne host Warrenpoint (8pm), Crusaders entertain Glenavon and bottom club Dungannon Swifts travel to Carrick Rangers (both 7.45pm). On Saturday at 5.30pm, as well as Linfield playing Ballymena, Cliftonville, in fifth, visit Portadown.

 

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Football/Soccer