Damage done in the first half - Kearney

Johnny Watt keeps tabs on Marc Smyth.
Johnny Watt keeps tabs on Marc Smyth.

Oran Kearney admitted his side left themselves with a mountain to climb as they slipped to a ninth successive defeat at Cliftonville on New Year’s Day.

A poor start to the game saw the Bannsiders nearly concede with only two minutes gone as the hosts were awarded a penalty with two minutes on the clock. But Gregg Shannon got down well to push away Liam Boyce’s spot kick.

The respite was shortlived though as Boyce fired home in the 10th minute after Joe Gormley’s initial shot had been saved by Shannon.

It was 2-0 midway through the half as Martin Donnelly cut through the Bannsiders defence before smashing home from the edge of the box. Coleraine responded after the break, but it was too little, too late for boss Kearney.

“We’re in a relegation dogfight and I make no bones about that,” he admitted after the game.

“A lot of our players had off-days today and, though that’s the sort of thing that happens in football, you can’t come to a place like Solitude, only turn up for 45 minutes and expect to get a result.

“Our second-half performance was good but the damage had already been done by that stage.

“We spoke to the players six weeks ago and told them they were playing for their futures at the club and I don’t know if maybe some of them have already thrown the towel in - but I can tell you, if some of them have gone soft and aren’t up for the battle, I certainly am.”