Belfast Telegraph

It doesn't get better: On-loan McClean relives Linfield winner over Coleraine

Linfield 3 Coleraine 2

Mission complete: Kyle McClean celebrates his winning strike with Jordan Stewart
Mission complete: Kyle McClean celebrates his winning strike with Jordan Stewart

By Alex Mills

Match-winner Kyle McClean believes character and desire were the key ingredients to Linfield's dramatic victory over Coleraine at Windsor Park.

Trailing by two goals and struggling to find any cohesion or rhythm, the Blues' Danske Bank Premiership title challenge appeared to be heading for the buffers.

Strikes from defender Gareth McConaghie and Dean Shiels - although it is still debatable whether the ball had actually crossed the line - had David Healy's boys on the ropes.

Just as the home fans were beginning to lose faith, Linfield grabbed a lifeline courtesy of a Josh Robinson goal. Suddenly, the table-topping Blues finally produced the form that has made them champions-elect.

Niall Quinn shot them level with a goal of the season contender before McClean, who arrived last month on a loan deal from St Johnstone, had Windsor rocking with a last-minute winner - the signal for Healy and his backroom entourage to spring from the dugout in celebration. It was sensational stuff.

"It could be a huge result, come the end of the season," said the 21-year-old midfielder. "Being two goals down, it was going to be difficult to come back.

"Everyone dug in to get the result, it doesn't get better than scoring a last-minute winner."

Most teams would have folded, especially as the second Coleraine goal was steeped in controversy.

"I'm not sure whether the ball was over the line or not, but the linesman awarded the goal," added McClean. "Some said it was in, others said it wasn't.

"Thankfully, it wasn't an incident that decided the game. I try not to let decisions like that influence me, I just try to get on with the game.

"The way things panned out, it could be a massive result for us. We are taking it game by game. We can't afford to look too far ahead. We just must keep picking up points as we chalk off the games."

McClean admits he is loving life at Windsor Park, adding. "I've loved it since I came back and I'm enjoying playing again on a regular basis.

"We've a good squad. Competition for places is fierce. Everyone in doing their best in training, trying to get into the side and, when you do get in, it's a difficult job to stay there.

"It says a lot about the character within this squad to come back from a two-goal deficit to win the game. We really could have scored more. Big Michael (O'Connor) was unlucky with one shot that hit the post and he had another game came off the bar.

"Our fans were great, they really helped drive us on in the second half."

Coleraine boss Rodney McAree reckons his team thought the job was done and dusted at 2-0.

He said: "We began to overplay a little bit more when we went two-nil up, we stopped looking to hurt Linfield.

"They put us under a lot of pressure. But collectively and individually, we've got to take responsibility.

"We needed a little bit of leadership, a little bit of drive would have maybe helped us see the game out. It was a tough defeat to take.

"The result was a huge disappointment because it meant we missed out on the opportunity of gaining three points on Crusaders. They slipped up at Dungannon Swifts, but we failed to make any ground them."

LINFIELD: Deane, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth (Cooper, 83 mins), Stewart, Millar, McClean, Mulgrew, Cervenka (O'Connor, 76 mins), Quinn, Casement. Unused subs: Mitchell, Stafford, Clarke, Kearns, McGivern.

COLERAINE: Johns, Lowry, McConachie, Parkhill (Davidson, 72 mins), McGonigle (McLaughlin, 72 mins), Canning, B Doherty, Edgar (Mullan, 79 mins), Glackin, Shiels, King. Unused subs: M Doherty, Bradley, O'Donnell, Burke.

Referee: Shane Andrews (Comber)

Man of the match: Jamie Mulgrew

Match rating: 9/10

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