Match Reaction

O’Donnell: ‘The players are buying into Rodney’s plans’

COLERAINE captain Stephen O’Donnell spoke to the media after the Bannsiders’ 2-1 win over Linfield at Windsor Park…

The Stripes registered all three points at the National Stadium as Matthew Clarke and Kirk Millar scored own goals for the Blues – but the scoreline flattered the hosts as Coleraine put in their best performance under Rodney McAree.

A chuffed skipper told that the players are starting to buy into McAree’s plans.

“It is a massive three points for us,” he said.

“Rodney said to us that it was our most important game of the season in terms of ‘do we want to kick on and go and try do something this season or do we continue to be patchy and inconsistent’ and for us we have put back-to-back wins together for the first time under Rodney.

“Hopefully that can continue and we can kick on.

“To be honest, I think it took the squad a couple of weeks to implement some of the changes Rod has wanted us to make.

“I know he spoke and said maybe he tried to have a few allowances at the start based on how we had done, but I think he has made the right decision in changing it and putting his stamp on the team.

“I think over the last four weeks in particular, the boys have really picked it up and gone with it.

“I think the Crues game was a good performance, the boys were unlucky away at Glentoran and we should have got a result against Cliftonville.

“We have come out today and it seems like it has finally clicked in the sense of with and without the ball and long may it continue.”

The Irish Cup holders looked certain to keep a clean sheet at the National Stadium but were denied as Kirk Millar’s corner-kick went into the net via a deflection – much to O’Donnell’s frustration.

“I’m absolutely fuming to not have kept a clean sheet,” he added.

“I went into the changing room and I’m delighted and buzzing with the boys but I’m fuming as we deserved a clean sheet.

“Chris Johns was brilliant and deserved a clean sheet, the back four were solid and deserved a clean sheet and it’s disappointing that it has taken a 87th minute corner to deny us that.

“It’s something to work on and we can’t come away here thinking everything was perfect.

“We will go away and work on it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

O’Donnell was full of praise for Steven Douglas’ performance as the 41-year-old put in another stellar performance at the heart of the defence.

“It’s brilliant to play alongside Dougie,” he continued.

“People have asked me this question before and my only regret about joining Coleraine is that I never joined sooner to play with Dougie for longer.

“Anyone who watches him play knows he is brilliant. It’s a shame for me given his age and the fact he’s been playing for a long time that he doesn’t always play week to week.

“I know I won’t be playing at 41 years of age but every time I play with him I relish it as I always learn from him.”

Coleraine will now turn their attentions to next weekend’s visit of Glentoran to The Showgrounds and O’Donnell insists he and his team-mates have a ‘point to prove’ after failing to beat the Glens on two occasions this season.

“I think they have improved from last season and you have to give them credit for that,” he concluded.

“They aren’t playing like the bottom six side they were last season and they are looking to finish in the top half.

“We went up there earlier in the season and we should have won that game and we didn’t. Again we should have won the cup game a few weeks ago but we didn’t.

“We will go into next week with a point to prove and whilst we will show Glentoran the upmost respect, we are going for the three points.”