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Aaron Canning has been Irish League's best player this season, says Coleraine midfielder


Main man: Aaron Canning celebrates his goal against Ballymena United on Saturday

Main man: Aaron Canning celebrates his goal against Ballymena United on Saturday

�INPHO/Brian Little

Main man: Aaron Canning celebrates his goal against Ballymena United on Saturday

It certainly was a day to remember for Coleraine defender Aaron Canning on Saturday.

Not only did the man known as Snowy celebrate his 28th birthday with a clean sheet, he also bagged a goal and a vital three points against derby rivals Ballymena United.

Canning's form has been instrumental in the Bannsiders' push for the Gibson Cup, with monthly awards coming thick and fast from supporters' clubs.

And the first goalscorer from the 2-0 win at Warden Street, Stephen Lowry, says that his fellow Limavady native should be in line for more silverware before the end of the season.

"For me he has been the best player in the Irish League this season, he really is a superb player," said Lowry.

"Hopefully he can continue that form because if he does, we'll not be too far away at the end of the season."

Coleraine's win kept them four points behind Linfield in the table and was their 16th clean sheet of the league campaign.

For good measure, Canning has now notched up seven goals, something Lowry feels takes his team-mate to the next level.

"Any good defender chips with goals. Aaron has had a fantastic season and he's chipping in with goals," he added.

"If you look at the Linfield teams over the years, they are chipping in with goals, keeping clean sheets and Aaron is really hungry and is keen to do well."

Manager Oran Kearney is also a huge fan of Canning.

"As a player, his overall performances, and I think everyone who watches Coleraine every week will tell you, have been outstanding," he said.

"He has been one of the stand-out players in our squad this season and probably one of the stand-out players in the league, he has been absolutely exceptional.

"But to be labelled that, you have to have all facets of your game, not just defending.

"If he is going to be a top defender then he has to weigh in with goals and finally we're starting to see that coming from him as well."

As for Lowry, his early penalty certainly settled any would-be nervousness on Saturday and was his third success from the spot in the last month. Ben Doherty's injury opened the door for Lowry, but now that his midfield colleague is back in contention, Kearney may have a decision to make.

"I'm not the designated penalty taker, but maybe I am now!" joked Lowry.

"I knew I was going to go down the middle, I'd made my mind up before I hit it and took my chance that the keeper was going to dive, and I was happy how I took it.

"Sometimes if you hit it too hard down the middle his feet might get it, so I was happy enough."

As were his feelings on negotiating what is always a tricky hurdle at his former club: "Ballymena were probably the better team in the first 10 minutes but the penalty did settle our nerves and we saw out the first-half.

"We knew in the second-half we would have a strong wind behind us and we kept it tight at the back.

"We were never too flustered back there and didn't think Ballymena were going to score. We had a couple of wee scares, but we were solid.

"We have a really good defence, we've had three tough games in a week and we've come out of them with three wins, so we're delighted.

"The defence is really settled and there's good competition for places. Stevie O'Donnell is back on the bench and we're in a good place."

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