Coleraine boss Oran Kearney still has bad vibes from Linfield’s last visit to the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds — and he’s determined to avoid another dose of disappointment.
When the Blues made the journey up the M2 on December 4, they not only condemned the Bannsiders to their first home defeat in over a calendar year — spanning 22 games — but it was the first time Kearney’s boys had lost in 16 games in all competitions.
Little wonder the former St Mirren boss still has nightmares because after that defeat, Coleraine spiralled down the Danske Bank Premiership table following a series of disappointing results, which only ended last Saturday when they clocked up a much-needed victory against Carrick Rangers.
The winning trend didn’t last long as Kearney’s team agonisingly lost out to high-riding Glentoran at The Oval on Tuesday night, Conor McMenamin hitting a last-gasp winner to rub salt into their wounds.
So, Kearney’s team talk will require little tweaking in terms of a motivational factor.
“I was disappointed in the manner of the defeat the last time Linfield came to the Showgrounds before Christmas (there was controversy over Stevie Fallon’s winning goal),” he admitted.
“I thought we did more than enough to get something out of the game.
“We are in a tough week — it will be our third game in seven days, although it’s the same for every team, but when you have got the Big Two (Glentoran and Linfield) as part of that, it makes it even tougher.
“We’ve just got to keep working at it, I would never doubt our boys in terms of endeavour and attitude and I’ve no doubt we’ll be ready for the challenge. It would be great to get a result against the Blues to help us get back on track again.
“Although we lost at The Oval, there were a lot of positives to take from the game. Last week I told everyone that shirts were up for grabs — and there are still shirts up for grabs.”
Kearney, who has brought striker Andrew Mitchell to the club from Glentoran in a loan move ahead of a three-year deal from the start of the 2022/23 campaign, admitted his team’s defeat in east Belfast on Tuesday was “hard to take”.
He added: “It was frustrating, no one likes to concede a last-minute winner. They are brilliant when you get them, but they are not nice when they go against you.
“We gave away a silly free-kick that led to their winner. We didn’t win the first ball, we didn’t win the second and all of a sudden, we were away down the road with nothing to show.
“Against these full-time teams you’ve got to show a strong mentality.
“There are going to be stages in the game we’ll not have the ball, there are going to be stages in the game we have to dig in and be resolute and we did that at The Oval to a certain degree.
“It was a good away performance from that point, but over that last five minutes it should have been us pushing on and asking that question of trying to get a winner, but we let them out and with the quality of players they have you run the risk.
“It’s been a tough period for us. We got a good win the previous Saturday, but the one thing I never question our lads on is their endeavour, attitude, work ethic and effort.”