Coleraine's 'wasteful' finishing has cost Carson dear, explains Kearney
Coleraine 1-0 Ballymena United
Coleraine ensured that they will be taking the title race down to the wire as Darren McCauley's second half strike was enough to overcome a resilient Ballymena United at The Showgrounds.
The home side should have taken the lead inside the opening 45 minutes, but misses from Jamie McGonigle, Eoin Bradley and McCauley meant both sides went in level at the break.
It was going to take a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock and it arrived on 56 minutes when McCauley cut inside and drilled an effort low into the bottom corner for his 17th goal of the season.
Oran Kearney's side missed further opportunities to put the game to bed and suffered a setback when Josh Carson received his marching orders for a tackle on United's Willie Faulkner. The dismissal means the former Linfield player is sure to miss next month's Tennent's Irish Cup final against Cliftonville.
The Sky Blues nearly stole a point at the death as Tony Kane's free-kick sailed inches by the post, before Chris Johns acrobatically tipped over Stephen McAlorum's effort as the Bannsiders remained unbeaten at home this season.
Speaking after the game, Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney rued his side's missed opportunities on goal and had no complaints with Carson's red card.
"We fully understood how tough today was going to be and it was exactly that," Kearney stated.
"From watching the highlights back, we were wasteful in front of goal. We have dominated large spells in the game, we have five or six good chances in the first half and the same in the second half, and we probably score our hardest chance through Darren.
"The wasteful side of things probably is the most disappointing aspect as if we had taken those opportunities then Josh doesn't need to make the tackle towards the end.
"I can see what he is trying to do, breaking up the play and taking an intelligent yellow card. Ideally if we had taken our chances then he wouldn't be in that position to make that tackle.
"He is disappointed and has hurt his leg whatever way he has caught him.
"We will have to see what the suspension will be. He will miss next weekend and a subsequent ban is up to the referee's report. It's looking more negative than positive at the minute."
The result also meant that Coleraine remained unbeaten for entirety of this season - much to Kearney's satisfaction. "I was aware of that record, but wasn't if you know what I mean," Kearney added.
"It's one of those ones which passes you by until you're reminded of it.
"At times at this club we lament the geography side of things in terms of bringing in players from down the country.
"But we also have to turn that into our advantage, in terms of teams getting here and that sub conscious thought in that they'll say 'we are for the Coleraine Showgrounds and they are good at home'.
"We have achieved that and the record speaks for itself."
Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey felt his players deserved at least a draw but praised McCauley for his speculative effort.
"We came here and played with a passion, desire and commitment, and we also worked very hard and tried to play football on a day when conditions were very difficult," Jeffrey concluded.
"To be brutally honest I think we deserved at least a draw.
"It took something special to beat us. I have to say it was a great strike from Darren McCauley."
He added: "Even then it took a stunning save from Chris Johns to deny Stephen McAlorum at the end."
COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Harkin, McCauley, Bradley (Burns, 65 mins), Carson, McConaghie, O'Donnell, Traynor, McGonigle (Parkhill, 75 mins), Dooley. Unused subs: Mullan, Douglas, Smith.
BALLYMENA: Glendinning, Kane, Owens, McAlorum, Friel, Braniff (Millar, 76 mins), Burns (Flynn, 63 mins), Shevlin, Ervin, McCaffrey (Faulkner, 64 mins), Quigley.
Unused subs: McCracken, Nolan.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)
Man of the match: Stephen O'Donnell
Match rating: 7/10