Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine midfielder Neil McCafferty upbeat after win over Cliftonville

Cliftonville 2 - Coleraine 3

By Conor McLaughlin

Neil McCafferty insists talk of Coleraine's demise has been premature after inspiring the Bannsiders to victory over hitherto unbeaten Cliftonville.

The former Dungannon Swifts and Portadown midfielder pinged home an inch-perfect first-half free-kick to restore parity after the Reds had taken the lead through Johnny Flynn and also produced the set-piece delivery from which Ian Parkhill nodded the visitors in front.

A Martin Donnelly free-kick – from almost exactly the same spot as McCafferty's earlier effort – made it 2-2 before McCafferty had the afternoon's final say with a late penalty, awarded when Shane McGinty was bundled over inside the area by Barry Johnston.

"It was a great performance by all of us and a sign of what we're capable of," said McCafferty.

"After we went one down, it was a case of 'here we go again' because we should have been three up by that stage, but we kept battling away and kept playing our football.

"We still need to defend better but it's been like that all season when none of us have done well enough and we've let the manager down.

"This was a big game for all of us and we gave our best performance of the season.

"There have been games when we've played okay and lost but we have to get to the stage where when you don't play well, you still get a result because that's the sign of a good team.

"I know Cliftonville haven't won at home this season but it's a big thing to come here and deserve to take all three points.

"We could have won by more goals if we're being honest about it and we're delighted but, at the end of the day, it's only one game, it's only three points – we've got to make sure we follow it up next week and the week after.

"Losing can become a habit, just like winning can be, and what's important is that we forget about this win because it's gone now and you move on.

"In the build-up, it was the first time we've not had a midweek fixture and it gave us a clear week to concentrate solely on training, so we felt good coming into the match.

"It just shows you that in this league, anyone can beat anyone – you only have to look at results from one week to the next.

"We've played nearly everyone now and I haven't seen an outstanding team yet who I think will go away and win it easily.

"There's a few good teams but we can beat anyone on our day. If we defend well and cut out mistakes, we'll be okay."

The Bannsiders entered Saturday's contest on the back of defeats to Crusaders and Glentoran and, though they still find themselves in the lower reaches of the Danske Bank Premiership, McCafferty believes they have the quality to confound expectations.

"I know a lot of players left the club in the summer but we still have boys who can step up," he added.

"We lost Stevie Lowry (to Linfield) but I think I've come in and replaced him no problem. Losing Davy McDaid (to Cliftonville) is a big miss for us because Davy's a top player who will score a lot of goals and maybe we're just lacking a cutting edge player who can make the difference.

"Against Glentoran last week, we played well but just couldn't finish anything off.

"We still have some really good players, there's experienced guys like me, Steven Douglas, Michael Hegarty and David Ogilby, plus a lot of quality younger guys.

"It's going to take all of us to do it together but after this result we feel confident we can keep it going in the right direction."

Reds boss Tommy Breslin was somewhat less effusive in his assessment of the 90 minutes he had just witnessed.

"There was a sluggishness to our play, we were lacklustre from back to front and we looked leggy for some reason – and it's not down to a lack of fitness, so I don't know why," he said.

"We look like falling into the same trap as this time last year, when our hunger levels weren't at where they should be and I find myself wondering if two league titles are enough for some players. Do they really have the desire to kick on?

"It might only be one defeat but it comes on the back of a series of questionable performances and we'll have to do something about it."

Belfast Telegraph

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