COLERAINE boss Oran Kearney admits the timing of yesterday’s goals were the most frustrating aspect as they were beaten by Linfield at Windsor Park…
The Bannsiders failed to deny Linfield a fourth successive title as Ben Hall and Chris McKee netted in a four minute spell for the Blues before half-time.
Despite having plenty of possession after the break, the Stripes failed to create a meaningful opportunity to force their way back into the contest.
“We’ve said that these five games would be good for preparation moving forward in terms of the play-off and that’s our big focus,” he said.
“With the atmosphere and everything at stake, you knew it was going to be right up there in relation to the test it was going to be, how tough it was going to be and everything else.
“We came with a plan that the majority of away games do in relation to when you look how the story would pan out on a day like this, it’s about making sure you get off to a good start and you turn what is an expectant, excited attitude into one that starts to become nervy and edgy.
“Standing on the sidelines, I felt we went through both of those emotions. For the first 20 minutes they really came at us and to be fair, we stood strong without any massive scares.
“In the second 20 minutes, we started to get a grip of it and had a couple of efforts where we all of a sudden earned that corn and there was one pass that went astray from Jimmy Callacher in our half and you could hear a groan and a grunt after 35 minutes.
“We were well on our way and you enter that final phase where you saying ‘right get in at half-time and we are really onto one here’ but the timings of the two goals are frustrating.
“The second one on a day like this, which was the one we were more sore about at half-time, if you get in at 1-0 at the break, you could see they stepped their foot off the gas in the second-half and were still edgy, but if it’s 1-0 you’re still right in the game.
“I thought our second-half performance with what we had, I thought we probed and prompted, and just needed a goal at some stage to spark life into it.”
With injuries and suspensions restricting numbers, Kearney acknowledged it was important to give minutes to the likes of Lewis Tosh and Kirk McLaughlin.
“We spoke last week about taking steps and making progress in relation to where we want to be come play-off time,” he added.
“With that, the last thing you also needed was a scenario like that where the pressure is released and it goes the opposite way.
“I have to say the boys knuckled down in the second-half and we’ve had to bring Stephen Lowry off as he hurt his knee in the first-half, with Lewis Tosh and Kirk McLaughlin coming on.
“We’ve 20 pros at the club and seven of them were unavailable, so we’ve had to look at some younger faces who have came in and acquitted themselves well.
“The magnitude and expectation of the game and the pressure we knew we’d be under, I think coming here for a league game any week at any ground, you’re arriving thinking sometimes teams do or don’t start games well or it takes until the second-half to get going.
“Coming here today you knew they were going to come out of the blocks, you knew there was a guarantee that the first 20 minutes would be hell’s kitchen and it was all about getting through that and I thought we did that really well.
“The frustrating aspect of that is that when you’re so close to going in at half-time with everything intact, it is just frustrating to concede the goals.”
Coleraine won’t be in action next weekend due to the Irish Cup final being played, with the lay of the land finally being confirmed after the showpiece decider for the European play-offs.
“We will get a week training behind us and we will try and get everyone freshened up and a lot of bodies back and ready to go again,” Kearney continued.
“I think by the time we finish our training as such, we will know who our opposition is, so it’s important we get a really good week and we make sure bodies and minds are fresh for a big push.
“Jamie Glackin’s suspension is cleared so he will come back into it.
“Lyndon is more wear and tear in relation to he’s been sore over the last few weeks and we haven’t been able to give him any time of respite.
“Stephen Lowry has played every game this season and we are hoping he won’t be too far away, Aaron Traynor missed a game through concussion and came back but was really, really tight all week and it was one of those if we played him today and he came off with tightness, then he won’t be able to train and then into a play-off game with no real substance behind him.
“We were as strong as we possibly could today but we have to listen to the players in relation to where they’re at.
“You’re hoping that those guys will be back plus one or two others.”
Yesterday’s contest brought an end to the Danske Bank Premiership campaign for Coleraine, with Kearney stating that the challenge will be on him and his players to compete at the top table in 2022/23
“It’s been a frustrating season to be honest,” he concluded.
“It’s been a bit strange at times, as from where I stood in the first part of the season to December time, we were winning games but I wouldn’t have said I was grossly happy with our performances or how we were playing.
“Since then, we have struggled to pick up points but in big parts of the majority of games, there’s been a huge amount of positives or things that probably have been better.
“It’s tough because we’ve been on a real top run for three or four years, where it’s been relentless with the league, Europe and all that goes with it.
“With that, you see it happens with all teams, it’s hard to sustain that cycle and keep that going year after year. For example, Crusaders finished fifth or sixth last year having been up and around there for a long period of time.
“The challenge for us is to refresh, rejuvenate in the summer and get bodies in that hopefully allow us to kick on and get another surge at it.”