Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey is delighted to slam brakes on Coleraine

Coleraine 1 Ballymena Utd 1

By Jonathan McNabb

David Jeffrey hailed his Ballymena United players as 'terrific' after the Sky Blues earned a share of the spoils against leaders Coleraine at a packed Ballycastle Road.

The hosts took the lead through Jamie McGonigle's calm finish on 40 minutes, but United responded with Kyle Owens' deflected header finding the target after the break.

Both sides had chances to win it late on, Coleraine's Eoin Bradley and Ballymena's Kevin Braniff both coming close, before the Bannsiders' Cathair Friel was inches away from securing all three points in added time.

"I thought it was a fantastic game of football," Jeffrey said. "I think on the balance of play, if we had won the game, nobody would have said we wouldn't have deserved it.

"We encouraged the players at half-time and got a deserved equaliser through Kyle. At the end we had a couple of chances that nearly went over the line."

However, there was to be disappointment for the Braidmen as Johnny McMurray and Gary Thompson both had to be substituted through injury.

"Sadly, I have to report on several more injuries," Jeffrey added. "Johnny has picked up an injury similar to the one Kyle Owens had at the start of the season and that kept him out for around four to six weeks.

"Gary has taken an awful crack on his ankle. I only had 16 fit players, so I don't know what I'll do for Saturday against Glenavon. On a positive note, it was great to see Stephen McAlorum back on the pitch and he did fantastically well with his influence and leadership."

The result means that Coleraine's lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership has been cut to four points, and boss Oran Kearney was disappointed with the manner of Owens' equaliser.

"I thought both sides put in a good performance in front of a big crowd," Kearney acknowledged.

"Jamie took his goal well, but we are disappointed with the equaliser.

"We knew the long throw was coming and the header was going into Chris Johns' arms, but Aaron Traynor sticks out a leg and it goes into the goal.

"We are frustrated with that as we have kept three clean sheets in a row, and ideally when you go 1-0 ahead, especially on a day like today, you expect something magnificent to change the game.

"Something as cheap as that is disappointing from our point of view."

The manager was delighted to have Bradley available for selection after the striker returned from a knee injury sustained in September.

"It's brilliant to have Eoin back and he's worked tremendously hard with his rehab," Kearney said. "He is a vital player for us, and his loss has put an awful lot of responsibility on Jamie McGonigle, but he's been brilliant in the last few months.

"We want to have our best players back on the pitch and it's great to see him out on the pitch."

Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Harkin, McCauley, Smith, Carson, McConaghie, O'Donnell, Parkhill (Bradley, 68 mins), Traynor, McGonigle. Unused subs: Douglas, Ogilby, Kee, Whiteside.

Ballymena Utd: Glendinning, Kane, Owens, Thompson (McAlorum, 76 mins), Friel, McCloskey, Shevlin (McKinney, 84 mins), Balmer, Ervin, McCullough, McMurray (Braniff, 52 mins). Unused subs: Brennan, McCaffrey.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

Man of the match: Kyle Owens

Match rating: 7/10


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