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Coleraine boss Oran Kearney in safe hands as Doherty leaves Cliftonville goalless


On course: Shane McGinty (second from left) is lauded after making the breakthrough against Cliftonville

On course: Shane McGinty (second from left) is lauded after making the breakthrough against Cliftonville

On course: Shane McGinty (second from left) is lauded after making the breakthrough against Cliftonville

GoalKeeper Michael Doherty's headline-grabbing performance left champions Cliftonville goalless for only the third time this season.

Few sides have managed to halt the impressive threat of the Irish League's top striker Joe Gormley, who arrived at Coleraine Showgrounds with 12 goals in his last seven games.

But Doherty and his defenders managed to slam the door shut with a little help from the woodwork.

The Coleraine stopper earned praise from his manager Oran Kearney after a series of stand-out saves ensured the Bannsiders ended a run of three successive defeats and stretched their unbeaten run of games against the Reds to three.

Kearney said: "Michael demonstrated his undoubted ability to keep us ahead.

"You know that against the champions you are never going to keep strikers such as Joe Gormley and David McDaid completely restricted over 90 minutes and he produced three or four excellent saves."

The defeat was costly for the league leading Reds, who were knocked off their perch and into third spot behind Portadown and Linfield.

"We looked lethargic at the start and didn't have any strength," admitted Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin, the after effects of the midweek County Antrim Shield semi-final extra-time win over Ards obviously taking their toll.

"We created a lot more in the second half but it was one of those games where we probably could have played for a fortnight and not scored," he added.

After hitting Ballymena United for seven the previous weekend, a drought set in: "We couldn't buy a goal but that's often the way when you come off a big win," Breslin insisted.

Only twice this campaign, at home to both Glentoran and Linfield, have the Solitude side failed to find the net. In contrast, Coleraine went into the game having lost their last three, conceding seven goals after previously shutting up shop successfully in their last four outings.

Kearney was impressed with the mentality of his players, who snatched the lead just before half-time through winger Shane McGinty's strike and sealed the result with a headed goal from skipper Howard Beverland midway through the second period.

"I was pleased at how the players went about their business," said Kearney.

"We got out of the blocks looking sharp and crucially sustained the momentum."

McGinty's opener after 43 minutes was the winger's first goal since August, while Beverland hadn't scored since last season.

After a couple of near misses involving McCauley, visiting defender Jaimie McGovern watched his connection on Martin Donnelly's cross stopped on the line by in-form Doherty.

Reds keeper Conor Devlin twice denied McCauley before McGinty snatched the lead two minutes before the break, netting via the inside of the post after McCauley's brilliant back heel had created the opening.

Cliftonville were sharper in the second half. McDaid forced an excellent save from Doherty after connecting with Donnelly's assist and, within a minute, McGovern's header was cleared off the line by impressive defender Adam Mullan.

Then 21-goal Gormley drilled a right foot shot towards the target only to see Doherty dive to turn the ball away.

Neil McCafferty hit the woodwork from 30 yards out before Beverland grabbed the second goal. Midfielder McCafferty whipped in a corner and the home captain dived to head the ball into the net after 67 minutes.

Doherty was forced to throw himself to his left to push out a venomous shot despatched by midfield man Barry Johnston from the edge of the box after Gormley and Donnelly had opened up the opportunity.

McCauley went close to adding a third for Coleraine. Parkhill, another non-stop Coleraine performer, picked him out near the end but the ex-Institute man failed to deliver the goal his impressive effort deserved, blazing high and wide from a promising position.

Before the end, substitute Jay Donnelly headed Martin Donnelly's cross against the woodwork and Doherty clawed another McGovern effort off the line to preserve his clean sheet.

COLERAINE: Doherty, Mullan, Beverland, Douglas, Ogilby, Kane, McCafferty, McGinty, Parkhill, McCauley, McNeill. Substitutions: Hegarty (McCauley, 81 mins), Miskimmin (McNeill, 86 mins).

Cliftonville: Devlin, McMullan, McGovern, Flynn, Seydak, M Donnelly, Johnston, Catney, Winchester, McDaid, Gormley. Subtitutions: J Donnelly (Catney, 67 mins), Murray (McDaid, 78 mins), Mulvenna (McMullan, 78 mins).

Man of the match: Darren McCauley (pictured)

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)

Belfast Telegraph