COLERAINE manager Oran Kearney reflects after watching his side play out a 1-1 draw against Crusaders at The Showgrounds…
Kearney praised both teams for their efforts in tough conditions, but knew his side needed another goal to claim all three points.
“I thought it was a tough game, both teams did well in the conditions, there wasn’t a huge amount in the game from my point of view,” Kearney said.
“They had a couple of chances, one near the end when Ciaron Harkin went to sleep.
“At 1-0 the key thing for us was to lengthen the amount of time we could keep it at 1-0 because you could see straight away the dynamic of the game changed.
“They were coming forward in their droves, but we were looking very dangerous on the counter.
“It wasn’t a game I saw us winning by a single goal, I thought there was definitely a second coming because of the holes which were being left.
“It’s disappointing they got the goal from the corner and things tighten up again for the last few minutes.
“When a set piece goes in like that and there’s 16 players in the goalmouth, it wasn’t even a jump, it was just a lottery of who could get something on the ball.
“Five minutes later Stevie O’Donnell has a similar chance at the far end – theirs goes in ours goes over, those are the margins.”
The Bannsiders received a boost early in the second-half with the return of Brad Lyons from injury – much to Kearney’s satisfaction.
“It’s great to see Brad back again,” Kearney added.
“The only positive from Brad’s injury, and I mean the only positive because it has been a horrendous one for him, is that it was facial and very quickly after it happened he was able to get back training.
“He’ll be glad to get back training with the rest of the squad now because the individual work we were putting him through to keep him fit and fresh was nigh on sadistic!
“But it showed with how fresh and fit he looked there today.
“We had to get a firm in from England and it cost a lot of money to get a carbon fibre mask made.
“They took a mould of his face a couple of weeks ago then the mask arrived this week.
“I spoke with the Doctor and the Consultant and they all said he was good to go, Brad was adamant he was good to go, I was sort of wanting to put the brakes on it a wee bit and ease him back into it gently.
“But it speaks volumes of Brad the person and Brad the player he knew he was ready. He was really comfortable when he trained this week, he just looked really fresh and vibrant and buzzing ready to go.
“We knew that if we didn’t start him against Crusaders, then he would come on and have a big part in the game.
“It is such a massive boost to have a player of his quality back fit and playing.
“The magnitude of his injury and for him to be back on a pitch six weeks later is astounding.
“I was wiping out most of December for him as well to be honest.
“I’m not sure how long he’ll have to wear the mask for, it might be for the foreseeable future, but he’s very comfortable and happy with it.
“It showed there today, his first touch was a header, I thought there would have been a wee bit of angst with him, but no he just sailed on.
“I’m delighted for Brad because it has been a tough few weeks for him. The reception he got from the fans when the substitute board came out was brilliant.
“This has given everyone a really big lift.”
Saturday’s draw means the Stripes stretched their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership to six points. However, Kearney insists his players are solely focussed on collecting three points.
“We are three months at the top now and it’s brilliant,” Kearney revealed.
“As I’ve said countless time before I know the rials and tribulations of being at the other end of the table.
“This is just sheer enjoyment and thrill, and just a challenge.
“The big things we say every week is can we go another week and how long do we want to be up there for, if we are enjoying it then let’s get out there and get another three points.
“It’s brilliant, the whole club is buzzing.
“We back ourselves, we don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, and we don’t do a huge amount of shouting outside the changing room.
“We are quite content with what we have in the changing room, and we’re quite content with our experiences on the last six months, 12 months, and in particular, against the bigger teams we’re at a point when we realise we can more than compete with these teams.
“And with every good result we get against them that feeling will only get stronger.”
Kearney also gave a medical update regarding Lyndon Kane and Eoin Bradley as the Stripes aim to have a fully fit squad – bar James McLaughlin – for early 2018.
“It’s looking like January time before ‘Skinner’ will be back,” Kearney acknowledged.
“Lyndon has been on an anti-gravity treadmill for the last coupe of weeks.
“He’s nearly up to full weight bearing training now so we’re hoping he’ll maybe get through a bit of normal jogging this week and possibly start the football rehab the week after.
“The way he’s going the leg is coming on really well, the foot is feeling really strong and his quads and hamstrings are starting to bulk up again.
“He’s very content with where he’s at at this point in time, it’s now withing touching distance.
“Lyndon hasn’t kicked a ball for us since the end of June.
“I was worried about our season after Lyndon picked up that injury because I always feel he’s our trigger.
“He sets the tone for us and he epitomises what Coleraine is as a club.
“I’ll be honest being without him for so long scared me, but it’s a credit for the lads that it hasn’t had a huge impact on our season.
“I just feel that when he does come back we’ll step up another gear.”