COLERAINE’S games against Crusaders in the recent past have thrown up a number of talking points.
Earlier this season referee Tim Marshall was in the spotlight at Seaview after he awarded the Bannsiders a penalty much to the annoyance of the home side, even though it turned out to be the right decision.
And on Saturday the officials were making the headlines once again. This time it was referee Alan Black and fourth official Raymond Crangle and it all centred on how they handled an incident involving Coleraine striker Curtis Allen midway through the first half.
The front man managed to hold off a challenge from Joshua Robinson before beating Sean O’Neill with a terrific effort from just outside the box. But just before the ball went in Black blew for the foul and awarded a free kick.
However he quickly changed his mind and gave the goal which set off the home players and in particular O’Neill who hounded the ref. And eventually he swayed to the pressure and consulted Crangle on the touchline. After a period of consultation Black reversed his decision again giving the free kick much to Coleraine’s dismay.
The Crues also seemed to get a huge slice of luck in their opening goal as Davy Rainey seemed to impede Gregg Shannon on his debut and Chris Morrow’s free kick bounced into the net. Mathew Snoddy added a quick fire second before David Scullion pulled one back in more controversy as the linesman initially flagged for offside only for Black to overrule him.
And late on a pull on Allen again by Robinson was missed much to Oran Kearney’s dismay.
“We work hard in training all week and again on the pitch on a Saturday afternoon to try and get good results, but you just can’t legislate for decisions like those made by the referee,” he said after the game.
“To get one of those going against you in a game is hard to take, but three or four, like we experienced, is unthinkable.
“The situation surrounding our disallowed goal in the first half was handled unbelievably badly, and then their opening goal is the most blatant example of a foul on the goalkeeper you’re likely to see, yet somehow it goes unpunished.
“Then in the final few minutes Curtis is held back in the box and if the laws are applied correctly, we should have a penalty and an opportunity to level the scores, but play just continues as if nothing has happened.
“All I can say is at least there wasn’t anything big at stake. Last season we went into the corresponding fixture on the last day of the season needing a win to qualify for Europe.
“However, on that day we were a little overawed and didn’t do enough to deserve the result. After yesterday, I feel we can walk away with our heads high, in that we put in an excellent performance, even if we were left disappointed by the result.
“The game was typical of us this season. We dominated for long spells, played some really nice football, but just didn’t create enough clear chances. We don’t get points for possession stats and putting teams away has been our problem all season.
“Our decision making in the final third was poor yesterday and that was one of the most frustrating things for me. I knew from the way Crusaders set up that we would get a lot of opportunities to run at their centre halves, but too often when we got ourselves into that position, we took an extra touch, or tried to look for a pass instead of just having a go. That tendency to over-elaborate has cost us on a few occasions this season.”
Kearney sprung a surprise in his selection as he brought Shannon in for Michael Doherty, and the big stopper proved his worth saving Gary McCutcheon’s first half penalty.
“Gregg did exceptionally well,” said Kearney. “He deserved his chance, he has worked hard in training, lost a stone and a half in weight and been very sharp.”