COLERAINE manager Rodney McAree was pleased with his side’s attacking display at Solitude, but knows they need to tighten up at the back…
The Bannsiders twice took the lead in North Belfast via James McLaughlin and Jamie McGonigle, but defensive errors meant they trailed 3-2 at the break. A late penalty from Ryan Curran settled matters as Coleraine lost for the third successive match in all competitions.
Speaking after the game, boss McAree believes his side will start picking up points as soon as they cut out defensive efforts.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the result as football is all about results,” he said.
“I worried after last week’s defeat in the semi-final as to how we would respond, especially with having so many players out.
“We had to make another two changes to the back four, with one of them enforced and the other was my decision.
“It’s disappointing we left here with nothing as I thought we were the better team going forward, but defensively we could have done more and we have struggled in that department recently.
“If we can improve that and get the same performance going forward, then we will be okay.
“Cliftonville didn’t have to work too hard for their goals in the first-half, but I thought we corrected that after the break.
“I thought we were more dominant in the air in the second-half, Gareth McConaghie has come on and he’s had the disappointment of not starting the game, but I thought he was super and everyone improved when he was introduced.”
The Bannsiders missed a host of chances in the second-half to secure a positive result at Solitude, with James McLaughlin also firing wide at 2-1.
“In the second-half I can’t believe we haven’t scored,” McAree added.
“On another day, we could have been 3-1 up if James McLaughlin’s effort, which he was unlucky with, found the net.
“All of a sudden we find ourselves 3-2 down at half-time due to defensive errors.
“The second goal looked offside but you get some of those decisions and some you don’t.
“After the break we created five or six chances and I’m surprised we haven’t taken something out of the game.
“We have four games left before the European play-offs and I’ll take great confidence from how we played going forward.”
McAree was without the services of Josh Carson, Stephen Lowry, Jamie Glackin and Aaron Burns through injury, with Aaron Canning also ruled out through suspension.
“We have to make sure we get bodies back so we have as many bodies available as possible,” he concluded.
“If we keep turning in performances like we did going forward today and tighten up at the back, I think we will give ourselves a chance.
“We will go into the play-offs with the full belief that we can beat any team who is going to be in it.
“I left Gareth McConaghie out because he was on nine bookings and Stephen O’Donnell was on four.
“Being honest I was scared of losing both players at the same time.
“I don’t want to lose them for the play-offs, nor for the same game and I also wanted to freshen things up.
“I also felt Gareth needed a little bit of a rest, but I thought he responded brilliantly.”