McAree upbeat despite third straight reversal
Cliftonville 4 Coleraine 2
Rodney McAree cut a more upbeat figure than might usually be expected from a manager who had just watched his side slip to a third straight defeat.
The Coleraine chief's demeanour was, however, perfectly understandable because, despite being on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline against Cliftonville, he had no shortage of positives to call upon at the end of a gripping Solitude showdown.
"It's disappointing we left here with nothing as I thought we were the better team going forward," he reasoned.
"Defensively we could have done more and we have struggled in that department recently. If we can improve that and get the same performance going forward, then we will be okay."
Ahead through Jamie McGonigle and then James McLaughlin either side of a Rory Donnelly leveller, the Bannsiders were pegged back again when Ryan Curran converted from close range before Jamie Harney nodded Cliftonville in front on the stroke of half-time.
Quite how there were only five goals in the opening 45 minutes left both sets of fans as perplexed as the fact that the second period delivered just one more for the tally - an injury-time penalty from Curran.
Home quartet Donnelly, Joe Gormley, Chris Curran and Niall Grace all passed up chances that looked destined for the back of the net, while McLaughlin, Ian Parkhill, McGonigle - both twice - and Stephen O'Donnell came agonisingly close for the visitors.
"In the second half I can't believe we haven't scored," added the Coleraine boss. "We created five or six chances and I'm surprised we haven't taken something out of the game.
"We have four games left before the European play-offs and I'll take great confidence from how we played going forward."
Cliftonville are likely to be the Bannsiders' play-off opponents and their manager, Paddy McLaughlin, was pleased to stake a claim for home advantage in the tie.
"The higher up the league we finish, the better chance we have of getting a home game," he said. "We have a good record at Solitude and, though any match in the play-off would obviously be a very tough test, you want to take any advantage you can get."
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McGovern (Breen, 82 mins), Ives, Grace, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, R Donnelly, A Harkin (Bagnall, 63 mins), Gormley (Maguire, 90 mins), Gorman. Unused subs: Neeson, McConnell, Lavery, A Donnelly.
COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan (Edgar, 33 mins), Douglas (Bradley, 82 mins), McLaughlin, O'Donnell, Parkhill, McGonigle, B Doherty, Burke, Shiels, King (McConaghie, 51 mins). Unused subs: M Doherty, Crown, Davidson.
Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown) 7
Man of the match: Ryan Curran
Match rating: 8/10