COLERAINE are fast becoming everyone’s first pick for their pools coupon after they picked up their 12th draw of the season at Ballinamallard on Easter Tuesday.
A goal from Curtis Allen in the first half and a reply from Mallards captain Mark Stafford in the second saw the sides go home with a point apiece.
Allen thought he had put Coleraine in front early on when he volleyed in Ryan McIlmoyle’s cross, but his celebrations were cut short by a raised flag.
But he wasn’t to be denied for long as Coleraine went in front in first half stoppage time. Beverland’s ball into the box evaded the defenders and Allen was able to nip in and head the ball past Ballinamallard ‘keeper McGrath.
The striker could have doubled his tally as Coleraine started the second half strongly, but when put through one-on-one with McGrath, he was denied by a one-handed save.
Coleraine would end up ruing this missed opportunity as Ballinamallard drew level on 59 minutes. They benefitted from a very generous free kick decision in the middle of the park, but Coleraine were caught napping as Mark Stafford rose highest to head past Michael Doherty.
Both sides had chances in the final stages, with Doherty making a fine save to deny Chris Curran and Craig Moore, who impressed after coming off the bench, being twice kept out by McGrath to leave the Bannsiders with just a point to show for their efforts once again.
“It’s a bit of déjà vu, as we’ve been in this situation so often this season,” said bos Oran Kearney after the game.
“It’s hard to be angry with the players when you do everything right for 89 and a half minutes of the game, dominating all over the pitch and shutting the opposition out completely. It was the first game for quite a while where we’ve dominated the whole contest, a lot of the recent games we have played well in only one half or in 20 minute periods during each half.
“But that’s no use when you don’t go on to win the game. We deserved to close that out as a 1-0 and maybe last season we would have done, but this season things just haven’t worked out like that for us.
“I felt it was a very soft free kick for their goal, but that’s no excuse as we still should have defended it better and were caught a bit cold. That was their first serious effort on goal the whole game and it came about an hour into it. Even after that we weren’t unduly troubled, there was one occasion where ‘Doc’ made a good save, but other than that I can’t recall us giving up too many chances.
“Making the most of our chances at the other end has been a problem all season and in tight games, you’ll always leave yourself vulnerable with a one goal lead. I think that’s seven or eight times we’ve drawn 1-1 this season in the league and it would be interesting to see how much better off we’d be if we’d even managed to convert half of those into victories.”
Kearney praised the efforts of Craig Moore who impressed after coming off the bench.
“Craig has made great progress in the reserves this season,” he said. “He’s been on my radar for quite a while now and in the last few weeks I’ve felt the time is right to start integrating him into the squad. He’s performed very well in training and he showed up well again adding a lot to our attacking threat when he came on.”
Kearney’s opposite number, Whitey Anderson, was satisfied with the result, but not the Coleraine goal.
“When they did score it looked a certain off side decision,” he said. “I think the linesman got caught up in a tangle between two players and missed it. But he was man enough to admit at half time that he got it wrong.
“Overall a point was a fair result. Coleraine were good in spells and we both tried to play football on a lively surface.
“I felt we came back well in the second half and Stafford’s equaliser was no more than we deserved.”