'It was a crazy spectacle': Frustration and relief for Coleraine boss Kearney following dramatic derby draw
Ballymena United 1 Coleraine 1
Oran Kearney cursed his luck but also counted his lucky stars as Coleraine shared the derby spoils with Ballymena United.
Having been reduced to nine men when Cathair Friel closed in on goal in the dying seconds, it looked like his side's efforts at Warden Street would end in vain but the normally lethal striker missed the opportunity.
Much earlier it had been a similar tale when James McLaughlin, who had given the visitors a 13th-minute lead, stretched too far to reach Eoin Bradley's pass with the goal at his mercy and ended up in a heap with a hamstring injury that meant he exited the game.
He was soon followed by captain Stephen O'Donnell, who picked up a second yellow card for a high foot on Aaron Burns, but his first offence of a tackle on Friel was just one of many penalised by referee Tim Marshall that were at best soft.
Salt was rubbed in the wound when Scot Whiteside headed home an equaliser, while Adam Mullan joined O'Donnell with no complaints as he took one for the team by hauling down Leroy Millar as he burst through.
"It was a double whammy because if he lasts another four yards we're 2-0 up," said Kearney of the McLaughlin incident.
"Even if he'd sprung his hamstring just as he was striking it, it would have been a single whammy because we're getting a goal but to not have an open net and lose a striker who is bang in form is hard to take."
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The 10 men were never really under the cosh and still looked dangerous on the break, fashioning a wonderful chance to win it in the 65th minute when Bradley tried to dink Ross Glendinning. However, the keeper got a paw to it and the big striker fluffed the rebound.
At the other end, Chris Johns got the better of Ryan Mayse and then from three yards out Burns somehow missed the target before Friel's last-gasp chance sailed wide.
"I said to him I would have put my house on him at that stage," Kearney said of Bradley's chance.
"And for as much as we're sitting happy to come away with a point, there could easily have been a bigger sucker punch when Snowy (Aaron Canning), who has probably been our player of the season, made an uncharacteristic slip and you could be away with nothing in your pocket."
The game wasn't helped by the referee's performance - I think the tea lady was booked for rattling her cups - but David Jeffrey also looked back on the chances that his side missed to grab all three points.
"I thought Cathair was in there at the death, of course you know he's a deadly finisher, but I thought Ryan Mayse was in before that when he had a chance one-on-one and before that Aaron Burns had a chance from three yards out," he said.
"There were opportunities but you see big Bradley going through and Ross making a great save and he could have scored again.
"We should and could have won the game but we could have lost the game, that's the long and short of it. It was a crazy spectacle, but very much typical of the Irish League."
BALLYMENA: Ross Glendinning, Ervin, Balmer (Mayse, 46 mins), Whiteside, McGrory, McCullough, Harpur, Carville (McGinty, 62 mins), Friel, Millar, Burns (Lavery, 74 mins). Unused subs: Williamson, Kane, Kelly, Brown.
Coleraine: Johns, Canning, Mullan, McConaghie, O'Donnell, Jarvis, Doherty, Lowry, McLaughlin (Maciulaitis, 29 mins (Carson, 64 mins), Bradley, Parkhill (Glackin, 79 mins). Unused subs: Gallagher, Douglas, Gawne, McGuckin.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)
Man of the Match: Jim Ervin
Match Rating: 7/10