ORAN Kearney admitted his side ‘gave themselves a mountain to climb’ as they slipped to a 5-2 against Linfield on Saturday.

A disappointing first half showing saw the Bannsiders gift the Blues two goals in the opening 10 minutes through Matthew Tipton and Brian McCaul.

Tipton added a third before the break to all but seal the points.

Things improved for Kearney’s men after the break as Curtis Allen and Ruairi Harkin both scored, but Mark McAllister added a fourth before Tipton completed his hat-trick to complete a bad day at the office for the visitors.

“You can’t afford to give any team a two-goal head start, let alone a Linfield team who had picked up 19 points out of 21 going into this game,” said a disappointed Kearney afterwards.

“In all honesty, once the game settled down I thought we played more like our usual selves, had some good possession and created a lot of chances, but unfortunately we’d given ourselves too much of a mountain to climb and when we got ourselves a foothold in the game with the goal that made it 3-1, they scored again before we were able to really build on it.

Tipton broke the deadlock in the eighth minute when he latched onto Michael Carvill’s through ball before somehow breezing past Michael Doherty and tapping into an empty net.

It was 2-0 less than 90 seconds later when David Ogilby brought down Carvill inside the box.

Referee Alan Black awarded the penalty and McCaul stepped up to send Doherty the wrong way.

The Blues got their third goal in the 40th minute with Tipton on target once again.

Carvill was the provider with another sublime through ball, and Tipton was clinical with a left-foot finish that gave Doherty no chance.

Coleraine reduced the arrears in the 48th minute with Allen finishing off a neat move involving substitute Joel Bradley and David Scullion, but McAllister fired home from the edge of the box five minutes later to restore Linfield’s advantage.

It was 4-2 on 67 minutes when Harkin finished with aplomb after being gifted time inside the Blues box.

But any doubts over the result were erased four minutes from time when McCaul’s free-kick found its way to Tipton who drilled a first-time shot past Doherty.

Tipton has endured a torrid season of set-backs since signing for the champions last May.

His campaign to date has been stalled by a succession of injuries to his calf, hip and knee.

But now the former Portadown hitman is firing on all cylinders.

He got his Linfield career up and running with a strike against Glenavon last week, followed by a deadly brace against Cliftonville on New Year’s Day.

And on Saturday he went one better with a hat-trick against lacklustre Coleraine at Windsor.

“People will be demanding four from me next week,” Tipton joked about his recent scoring streak.

“I feel great. The best thing that could have happened was the Christmas period where I had to play the three games in six days, and now four in 10.

“It gave me the confidence.

“Playing in the Big Two game gave me a massive boost. It is such a big fixture with a big crowd, and it took that kind of game to lift me.

“It is not easy playing after being out for so long, so the Big Two was a great boost for me.

“Thankfully I scored against Glenavon and it has got me through this run.”