Stephen Carson targets top half for Coleraine after vital strike
Coleraine 3 Glenavon 2: Stephen Carson has delivered some breathtaking strikes in his 65-goal Coleraine haul but his weekend winner against Glenavon could yet prove to be one of his most important.
As the former international winger heads towards a landmark 300 appearances for the Showgrounds club – he is just 11 short of that target – there was a broad smile on his face after helping see off the Lurgan Blues and secure only a fourth win in 14 league games.
"We did it the hard way from 2-1 down and that speaks volumes for our potential," says the former Rangers man who insists the Bannsiders can now lift themselves into the top half of the Premiership table. "I think we have rediscovered ourselves after a disappointing start to the league. Now we have to sustain our improvement and start making up for lost time."
Carson grabbed his third goal of the season in stoppage time after Eoin Bradley had brought Coleraine level eight minutes earlier, to crown his impressive contribution.
The home side's sensational late rally was a body blow for Glenavon who looked comfortably capable of securing the points.
They had bounced back from conceding a first half goal to Gareth Tommons with two close range scores, courtesy of substitute Ciaran Martyn, who looked to have consigned Coleraine to a fifth home league game without a victory.
But not even Gary Hamilton was prepared to take away from the home side's smash and grab success.
The Glenavon boss admitted his disappointment at failing to take anything from the five-goal thriller but congratulated the Bannsiders on their bounce-back-ability.
"You have to admire the way they kept coming at us towards the end and it paid off for them," said Hamilton.
"We were on top and comfortable but couldn't see the job through."
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney couldn't hide his delight at the final result.
"At 2-1 down you still have to believe the game is there for the taking and thankfully so did my players.
"Glenavon had come out in the second half and enjoyed a big spell of pressure.
"We couldn't get out of our own half for long periods with the wind against us too.
"But credit to the players. They have been under a lot of pressure over the past month. They have been carrying a lot of mental baggage and I've asked so much from them as we look to turn things around.
"To go 2-1 down was a test. In the past we might have ended up feeling sorry for ourselves and ended up losing but, fortunately, not this time."
Carson's third goal since his return to the club from Glentoran was also a source of pleasure for his boss.
"Stephen has had a tough start to his comeback here but I'm pleased he was able to step up and deliver the winner," he said.
Kearney, meanwhile, has confirmed that midfielder Stephen Lowry may be out of action for several months with knee ligament damage which requires surgery.
Coleraine: Drummond, Watt (J Bradley, 85 mins), Beverland, Douglas, McIlmoyle, Tommons, Canning, Hegarty, Carson, E Bradley, Browne.
Glenavon: Connolly, McCallion, McKeown, Murphy, Marshall, McGrory (Patton, 62 mins), McCabe, Kilmartin (Martyn, 46 mins), Neill (Hamilton, 68 mins), Bates, Rainey.
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Dundonald).