Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine 1 Ballymena United 1

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney praised his team’s spirit and paid tribute to departing goalscorer Marc Mukendi after his side came from behind to earn a point in Friday evening’s derby date with Ballymena United.

Michael Smith had fired the visitors into a 17th minute lead only for substitute Mukendi to nod home a cross from fellow replacement Stephen Carson 20 minutes from time.

“You have to commend the guys for the character they showed to fight back after going behind again,” said Kearney.

“But we need to address how we start games as we were slow off the mark again. It looked as though it was going to be one of those nights as we had missed so many chances in the first hour.

“But credit to the lads — they kept pushing for the equaliser and we got our just rewards.

“We pushed on for the winner and we probably witnessed a couple of missed chances which we’ll never see again, but that’s football. The conditions were difficult and, when the ball’s bobbling around in there, it can go anywhere. But I can guarantee the lads don’t mean to miss them.”

Former Finn Harps defender Mukendi, who has been operating as a makeshift striker for the Bannsiders in recent times, is moving to Australia at the end of the season and Kearney admits he has been stuck in two minds as to whether to continue selecting him.

“It’s a bit of a catch 22 for us as we want to win as many games as possible, but we also want to go with the guys who are probably going to be here long-term.

“But fair play to Marc, he came on and it lifted the crowd and the rest of the players and it gave us an extra dimension.

“Stephen Carson put a real quality ball into the box and the big man put it away well and that’s the difference.”

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