Coleraine 3 Glentoran 2
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney believes their second half performance against Glentoran is the confidence booster they needed going into the end-of-season European play-offs.
The Bannsiders scored three times after the break to secure a 3-2 win over the east Belfast side to end a run of four straight losses and restore some belief in the dressing room.
Kearney’s men have long been guaranteed to finish in sixth place in the table but this was still a fine result to take into the play-offs as goals from Matthew Shevlin (2) and Aaron Jarvis earned them three points.
The manager was pleased to see them cut loose during events at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon and hopes they can channel that into the play-offs.
"Our second half performance was right on the money and something we’ve all been craving for a few weeks now. Nice to see the shackles come off and us look a bit more like ourselves again,” he beamed.
"It’s been frustrating, particularly the second half of the season. Today it was nice to see that second half performance and for us to look a bit more like ourselves.
"My feeling is on our day, and we’ve shown it here and this season, we’ve put teams to the sword either home or away and we’ve got those results. In one-off games like those play-offs, I feel we have the potential to do that.
"Our form of late hasn’t been where you’d want it to be. But that second half gives us all confidence now that we know the performances are there and we have to keep those levels going into the play-offs.”
Midfielder Patrick Kelly had another masterful performance in the centre of the park and it was he that helped them get off the mark when he won an early penalty after the restart which half-time replacement Shevlin converted.
Michael O’Connor quickly replied for the visitors, but Jarvis had the hosts ahead again on the hour mark with a fine finish before Shevlin made his a double when he tapped in James McLaughlin’s cross with 16 minutes to go.
Glentoran got another consolation goal deep into added time through Rory Donnelly’s turn and finish in the box, but this was to be Coleraine’s day as they signed off their home schedule with a win.
And Kearney was quick to praise teenager Kelly for another performance that belied his years, as well as goalkeeper Marty Gallagher, who had to step in at late notice when Gareth Deane pulled up in the warm-up.
"It’s a tough job, particularly in the second half of the season, bringing a young player into a man’s league, particularly with us not being in great form either,” explained the manager.
"It’s a credit to how (Kelly) goes about his business and for all you can talk skill and whatnot, his mentality towards the courage he shows on the pitch with the ball is brilliant. He’s a great lad and we’re delighted he’s showing progress.
"Gareth’s hurt his quad in the warm-up and Marty was the first player I mentioned in the euphoria after the game because he stepped in today cool as a cucumber and his performance gave us a good foundation to build on.”