COLERAINE boss Oran Kearney was once again left bemused by refereeing decisions as his side were narrowly beaten by Linfield.
The Bannsiders produced a real gutsy display at Windsor Park after being reduced to nine men after both Howard Beverland and Stephen Douglas were dismissed in the second half in controversial circumstances.
But with time running out Kearney’s men were hit with a real sucker punch as Peter Thompson stabbed home from close range to earn his side an undeserved win against the Bannsiders, who had dominated large chunks of the game.
“Stephen Douglas’ first booking is his first foul of the game,” said an exasperated Kearney after the game.
“He’s probably got away with a couple of tussles earlier on in the game, but the first time the referee actually adjudged him to have committed a foul, he brings out the yellow card, which for a challenge on a player heading away from goal out near the touchline is extremely harsh.
“Howard’s first booking was also a poor decision. He’s made a clean tackle and the linesman, who flagged for nothing else on his own initiative all afternoon, has called it as a foul. Howard has gone up to him and said ‘Seriously?’ and that’s deemed worthy of a booking. It’s immensely frustrating because the referee has got it wrong on both counts and then has left himself with no option but to bring out the second yellows.
“As frustrating as those decisions were, the way the cheap free kicks mounted up towards the end of the game just kept inviting pressure on us and those almost annoyed me as much as the red cards.”
Kearney was also disappointed his side didn’t make the most of their opportunities, particularly in the first half when they took the game to the Blues.
“I thought we dominated for the first 35/40 minutes of the game, played all the football and created the best chances,” he said.
“We were well organised at the back and broke well, playing some excellent football up until the final third, but our decision-making was poor and we weren’t composed enough when we got a sight of goal.
“I’ve spoke about it before, the need to take our chances and really capitalise when we’re on top, more than ever in games like this because you can’t expect to go to Linfield and dominate for 90 minutes.
“The sendings off changed the game in the sense that it became more of a rearguard action from us, but we responded well and defended resolutely. To lose so late on was a kick in the teeth, but we’ve all been in the game long enough to know that a game can last for 90+ minutes and at the end, you don’t always get what you deserve.”
Kearney though was delighted with the performance of keeper Wayne Drummond who produced several top drawer saves in the latter stages.
“When we were doing our homework on Wayne towards the end of last season, all the feedback we got on him suggested that in terms of ability, he was up there with the best in the league,” Kearney added. “What he’d lacked since coming back to the Irish League was someone to show faith in him. He knows that he has that here, but with that comes the added pressure of being a number one and justifying that status.
“He’s risen to the challenge superbly so far and was again in excellent form on Saturday. He made a number of excellent saves as Linfield ramped up the pressure and really didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side.”