Match Reaction

Soft goals killed us, says OK

ORAN Kearney admits Linfield didn’t have to work overly hard to score their two goals as the Bannsiders suffered defeat in the BetMcLean Cup final…

Second-half goals from Joel Cooper and Chris Shields’ penalty did the damage at Windsor Park as Linfield lifted the trophy for an eleventh time.

Kearney believes things were going to plan inside the opening 50 minutes but two lapses in concentration left his side chasing an uphill battle thereafter.

“It’s very frustrating to be honest,” said Kearney post-match.

“I think you know that goals change games, particularly in Cup finals and I felt we were more than in the game.

“Linfield started the game really well for the first 15 minutes, we altered our formation to give us a little stranglehold and I thought we got that thereafter.

“We’ve had some good opportunities and they’ve had some good opportunities.

“I just felt it was very even and we preached all week and before the game about taking risks in the right areas.

“We spoke about it again at half-time.

“Linfield had a bigger crowd than us today and you have that sense and feeling of getting the game 0-0 at half-time and then the edginess and all of that that goes with it.

“For us, the longer we stay in the game or the longer we keep it in that scenario, the stronger we get and more nervy it becomes for them.

“If they are to go ahead, you want them to earn it and you want it to be a really good goal.

“Conor McKendry has been really good for us but we urge him to do that stuff in the final third and I think he’s attempted something ten yards inside his own half and it meant they had one pass which led to a goal.

“All of a sudden, all your best laid plans are gone and all three sides of the ground lose their edginess and their players gain belief which becomes a tougher assignment.

“The second was a killer.

“I think that’s the psychology of football more than everything else because Dean is an experienced pro and understands everything we’ve spoken about in relation to what you try or don’t try in a Cup final.

“If it’s 0-0 at that moment in time, he heads the ball out for a throw-in or booms it up the line.

“I think he’s respective of we’re chasing the game and there’s 60 minutes gone and that there’s an urge there where we’ve got to try and get something.

“You then bring a bit of smartness to it, where rather put the ball out for a throw-in where it takes longer to get the game started, he’s trying to be smart by knocking the ball into Stevie O’Donnell.

“His decision is also based on the fact the first goal was crucial.

“I have no complaints about the penalty.

“I don’t think Stevie knows Chris McKee is there and if he does, he probably wouldn’t be as explosive towards the ball.

“I think he probably thinks he’s going to clear the ball 50 or 60 yards down the pitch and I think he’s caught unaware by the little flick inside and doesn’t know the player is there.”

Coleraine would shade the first-half but couldn’t find a way past Chris Johns in the Linfield goal despite creating several opportunities.

Kearney admits that he had to change shape early doors to give his side the best possible chance of a positive outcome.

“At 0-0, I had a real feeling we were in it and the longer it goes with every five minutes that ticks on, that we gain more strength and that edginess still remains,” Kearney added.

“When they go ahead, they have that know-how and they’ve been in enough big games which makes it a tough task.

“To be fair, we kept going and we’ve created a few half chances which might have given you a lifeline like Cliftonville last year but beyond that, we probably struggled in the last 20 minutes where I think the players got the feeling they knew it was going to be a tough assignment and it was going to take something special to change it.

“I wasn’t sure how they’d start today, we were content to start with a back four knowing that we could flip it if needed due to our versatility.

“I gave it 12 or 13 minutes knowing Linfield would try and have that bright start but there were just a few grey areas, where at times, we were 5 versus 5 at the back.

“Our four and Lyndon were all marking men and there was no cover whereas they had a bit of space and cover.

“I just felt to go with my gut at that stage to match it up, remove the stress of those grey areas and give everyone a role.

“I thought from that point onwards, we came into the game and looked lively.

“Chris Johns made a good save from Matthew and there were a few other chances in there.

“We were looking vibrant but to concede so soon is just a tough one to recover from.”

Despite the setback, Kearney reinforced there is still plenty to play for in the last two months of the season.

“The dust will settle over the next few days and we will worry about that when the time comes,” he continued.

“We still have a lot to play for and I’ll try to get my head around that in the coming days.

“It’s just frustrating; last year was a different frustration but this year feels different.

“I just feel the game was poised at half-time and it was a game of chess.

“We felt it had to look like that today but to let them off the hook in the manner that we did is highly frustrating and unorthodox in relation to the rest of how we played the game.”