Coleraine manager Oran Kearney will miss Stephen Dooley after another classy display
Cliftonville 2 Coleraine 2: Unfortunately for Coleraine boss Oran Kearney, his latest bout of transfer wheeling and dealing has failed to pay off.
Having watched flying winger Stephen Dooley excel during a brief two-match contract with the Bannsiders, Kearney joked he had gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent the young starlet's return to the United States.
"Unknown to him, I've had a word with his mother and tried to get his passport hidden away to make sure he doesn't go anywhere just yet" he said.
"He's been excellent in both of the games he's been back for. People maybe questioned it when we brought Stephen in on such a short deal but, when you've got that kind of talent available to you, you don't turn it down.
"We'd been on a big losing run and, as a manager, you're looking for a lift from everywhere and the chance to bring in a player who wasn't a part of that run, wasn't affected by the negativity or the pressure of it and who would just play with freedom was something that you have to look into.
"He's been a breath of fresh air, played fantastically well in both matches, got us goals and certainly leaves the team in a better place psychologically than he found it."
Sadly for the Coleraine gaffer, Dooley has already completed his transatlantic travels and will be studying in class stateside this afternoon, leaving fans to wonder what might have been had they been able to avail of his services for longer.
It was his 39th minute goal which cancelled out Joe Gormley's penalty and ensured parity at the interval, only for Cliftonville to pull back in front when Liam Boyce glanced a close-range header beyond Eugene Ferry.
The Bannsiders hit back once again, though, with Davy McDaid's dipping half-volley setting up a January 21 replay at The Showgrounds – but it could have been very different had both goalkeepers not demonstrated their qualities.
First, Ferry had to show a strong hand to keep Martin Donnelly at bay before opposite number Conor Devlin made a stunning brace of saves to deny first Eoin Bradley and then a disbelieving Ruairi Harkin.
"In many ways, we're lucky still to be in it," said Reds boss Tommy Breslin. "If it wasn't for the double save from Conor at the end, we could have been going out.
"Coleraine are a good side who are in a false position in the league, they've just been missing one or two key people, but they looked strong today.
"They looked sharp and they looked hungry and they had a good desire to win the game. We had the opportunity today to finish them off and we didn't and, as I say, we rode our luck at times so I'm just relieved that we're still in the cup to be honest."
Kearney, meanwhile, added: "Though I'm standing here thinking of the chances we had to win the match, I know Cliftonville will be doing the same so I'm not disappointed with the draw.
"We're trying to build a bit of momentum game by game and I'm pleased with how things have gone in the last couple of weeks."
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, Johnston, Donnelly, Smyth, Gormley, Cosgrove, Murray, Doherty, Boyce. Subs: McMullan (for Doherty, 81 mins), C Scannell (for Boyce, 81 mins), O'Carroll, Catney, Curran (for Murray, 64 mins).
COLERAINE: Ferry, Beverland, McIlmoyle, Hegarty, Douglas, Harkin, Canning, E Bradley, Tommons, McDaid, Dooley. Subs: Browne, Carson (for E Bradley, 90 mins), Watt, Jennings, J Bradley.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).