Cards galore as Coleraine let lead slip again

Aaron Shanahan makes himself big as Eoin Bradley threatens. PICTURE DEREK SIMPSON
Aaron Shanahan makes himself big as Eoin Bradley threatens. PICTURE DEREK SIMPSON

There have been a fair few fiesty affairs between Coleraine and their derby rivals Ballymena United down the years.

It’s only to be expected as two adversaries face off against each other.

Saturday’s encounter between the two sides at Warden Street was competitive, but certainly did not reach boiling point. Yet no fewer than THIRTEEN cards were dished out by referee Mark Courtney.

The Dungannon whistler produced six yellow cards to either team before showing Coleraine striker Gary Browne a late red for dissent.

It left most people, including the managers, talking about the officials after what had been a fairly entertaining affair.

“It sounds like an horrendously bad game between two very aggressive sets of players and I can assure you it wasn’t,” said Oran Kearney after the game.

“I think derbies are feisty enough at the best of times but it makes it even harder when yellow cards are handed out like that.”

Opposite number, Glenn Ferguson, agreed with Kearney saying he couldn’t remember one bad tackle in the game.

“I think the game was ruined by the raft of yellow cards followed by a red card,” said Ferguson.

“I think the powers-that-be have to realise that when there’s a derby game it’s going to be feisty and I think a bit of leeway has to be given.

“But to have five yellow cards in the first 20 minutes, it sets the tone for the rest of the game.

“I don’t think there was one bad tackle in the game and that’s being totally honest. I don’t remember anyone going down hurt.”

It was Coleraine who broke the deadlock at the end of a particularly forgettable opening 45 minutes.

David McDaid picked the ball up 25 yards from goal before beating Aaron Shanahan with a dipping shot.

Six minutes after the restart Ruairi Harkin doubled the Bannsiders lead as he too found the net with a fantastic long range effort.

Kearney’s men had chances to grab the vital third goal, but just as they had done earlier this season they managed to let their advantage slip.

First Michael McLellan slotted home at the second attempt just after the hour mark. And with three minutes to go Alan Teggart fired in from the spot after David Ogilby was adjudged to have fouled David Cushley.

Coleraine’s day was compounded as Browne was given his marching orders in stoppage time.

“We’ve had umpteen games like that this season where we’ve done really well for big periods of the game and come out with a defeat or a draw,” mused Kearney.

“As disappointed and frustrated as I was, I didn’t miss the players in the dressing room.

“Take everything else out of the equation - at 2-0 up after 60 minutes, you have to see it out.

“There has to come a point, as I said to the group, where we have to mature enough to do that.

“Up until we got the second goal, I was far happier than the 10 minutes after we scored it.

“For me at that stage it was about knuckling down and putting in a good shift for the next 10 minutes to take the sting out of the game.”

The draw all but extinguishes any lingering hopes the Bannsiders may have harboured of reaching the top six, with Kearney admitting: “Until it’s mathematically impossible you still have to go for it but it’s probably not far away from that now.”