Glentoran 1 Coleraine 1
Glentoran boss Scott Young may have been relieved that his side were still in the JJB Sports Irish Cup after coming out the other end of a second half barrage by Coleraine on Saturday, but the 1-1 draw brought about something he really didn't need — another game.
The Glens have been playing twice a week almost every week since the turn of the year and, fresh from this battle against the Bannsiders which means the teams will meet again a week today at the Showgrounds, Young's side face a tough Setanta Sports Cup task tonight against Dundalk at the Oval (7.45pm).
It's a lot to ask of part-time players and, while Young recognises that his men aren't the only ones feeling the pressure of a congested fixture schedule, he does believe that some serious thinking has to go into finding a solution for an issue that has became increasingly problematic in the past few years.
“It's far from ideal because in the second half we looked very, very jaded.
“Until the authorities try and work out a system where we don't have this amount of games it's always going to be that way.
“We have the league, the Irish Cup, the League Cup, the County Antrim Shield and the Setanta and, to be honest with you, maybe it's a bit much.”
Paul Leeman echoed his manager's sentiments, stating that it could be a factor in Glentoran's inconsistent form this campaign.
“The demands at the minute, I have to say, for part-time players, it's too much.
“We have had two matches a week now for the last six or seven weeks. As you seen on Tuesday night (against Donegal Celtic), our squad is severely depleted and it is difficult,” said the club skipper.
“Matches have been hard, results haven't been great and performances haven't been good enough but there are a lot of other things that contribute to bad performances sometimes.”
Andy Waterworth's penalty 28th minute penalty — awarded after Matty Burrows had been felled by Daibhibd McIvor — separated the two teams for a long period, but Coleraine earned a deserved replay with five minutes to go when man mountain Marc Mukendi headed in a Stephen Carson corner to spark chaotic scenes of joy on the terraces at the City End where the travelling Bannsiders supporters were housed.
It had been all Coleraine in the second half and the Glens couldn't deal with the physical threat of Mukendi as the game went on, with Colin Nixon looking like he had the better of the Londonderry man in the early stages.
Coleraine boss Oran Kearney poured praise on Mukendi, but insisted that at 6ft 4, the defender-cum-striker isn't merely a big lump of a front man.
“He keeps going and he is a centre half by trade as we know but probably what people don't give him credit for is technically he is a very good player as well,” claimed Kearney.
“He has got a very good touch and very good awareness.
“There was one time in the second half when we were 1-0 down he was trying to beat about three or four players and he got a few yahoos from the crowd.
“He has got good feet and good awareness and he sees things and obviously he is very good in the air.
“I think with the way the Irish League is made up, centre halves are known to be big bruisers like Marc so you maybe have to fight fire with fire and it helps the likes of Leon and Darren (Boyce) when he came on and gives them a good foil.”
Should rookie boss Kearney manage to overcome the Glens in the replay, he will come up against old club Linfield in the semi-final.
Unsurprisingly, he isn't looking that far ahead to a story of old-fashioned cup romance.
“We were six minutes from there being no romance whatsoever so our focus will turn to Glenavon on Saturday and then Glentoran on the Monday night after,” he said.
“If we can deal with that then we will take the Linfield fixture when it comes.
“At this point in time that history is yet to be written so there is no point in me commenting on it.”