FOOTBALL: Kearney gobsmacked by stunning comeback

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney and his players
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney and his players

Games between Coleraine and Portadown have been pretty memorable of late, but nothing comes close to the events at Shamrock Park on Friday night.

At 3-0 down and with less than 20 minutes left on the clock the Bannsiders looked dead and buried. But Oran Kearney’s men are made of pretty strong stuff and they set about producing a comeback Lazarus would have been proud of.

Joe O’Neill fired the hosts in front early on before Kevin Braniff smashed in a sublime second to put the hosts in control at the break.

Sean Mackle added a third on the hour mark to wrap up the game - or so we thought.

Kearney sent on Mark Gillan and Darren Boyce to try and rescue something, but never in his wildest dreams sis he expect what started to unfold before his eyes.

Boyce gave the score line some respectability on 72 as he headed in Aaron Canning’s excellent cross.

The full back followed that up with a goal of his own six minutes later as he fired in from 25 yards to set the home side’s nerves jangling.

There was only one team in it now and the comeback was complete two minutes before the end as Curtis Allen fired in from distance.

But the Bannsiders weren’t finished just yet. On 90 minutes Allen whipped a cross into the box, Boyce flicked it on and Gillan headed home to send the away fans into delirium and the boss struggling to find the words to explain it all at the end.

“I really don’t know how to sum that one up,” Kearney told Times Sport at the final whistle.

“It’s a crazy night, everyone is buzzing in the changing room and we’re going away happy, but we still have so much to work on and so much which needs to be put right.

“I said at half time the first 45 minutes were easily the worst during my time at the club.

“We were naïve, we lacked fight and we were dominated by the opposition. And if the truth be told probably until the 70 minute mark it was much the same.

“But as you know we’ve worked tremendously hard in pre-season. I suppose Portadown took their foot off the gas a little, but with that thankfully we still had the legs and the endeavour to push on.

“In saying that we still had to put the ball in the back of the net and we produced some great strikes.

“Both sides were set up as 4-5-1, but they won every battle we couldn’t cope with them even though we were matched up in formation.

“We decided once we brought Mark and Darren on that we were just going to go 4-4-2. Although it gave them an extra man in the middle of the park we had to gamble and throw an extra man up top to see if we could get back in the game.

“I think from then we started to claw our way back into the game more than anything. But still it takes a strength of mind and character to still believe you can get something.

“And to be fair to the lads they had no right to win that game tonight or get anywhere close to it, but you can’t argue with their work rate, endeavour or spirit.

“Darren’s was a great header to set us rolling. Mark was very unlucky not to steal the plaudits at Windsor last week. I’m so pleased for him coming to a new club and a new level and to pop up with the winner is fantastic.

“And for Curtis too his strike was a cracker.

“We always harp on at Aaron because sometimes he doesn’t get himself into the position to score. He was in the right area tonight when the ball dropped to him which gave him half a chance and he produced a great strike.”