Oran Kearney expected a cagey affair due to mutual respect

It came as no surprise to Oran Kearney that Coleraine’s clash with Cliftonville was a little bit cagey.

The Bannsiders boss has been in the game long enough to know that this is normally the outcome when two of the division’s top teams face off.

League leaders Cliftonville made the trip to face Kearney’s high-flying side, who had slipped down to third in the table following Glentoran’s win over Dungannon Swifts on Friday night.

And the Showgrounds encounter certainly had that big game feel to it with both sides showing their quality throughout with Kearney hailing the new artificial surface for allowing them to do so on a day when the conditions were horrendous at time.

Eoin Bradley dinks Luke McNicholas, but his effort hit the bar. PICTURE: David Cavan

“There’s mutual respect with every team you play,” said the Bannsiders boss.

“It’s first against second. If you go to any league on the planet and first is playing second you expect it to be or it can be a bit cagey at different stages of it. Still, I thought it was a good product.

“The pitch has helped massively. Last year – we probably don’t get the quality we got today. I thought both teams moved the ball and created chances.

“It was, I suppose, a war of attrition in that there wasn’t a huge amount of chances for either side and they had to be earned.”

The 0-0 draw means Coleraine have now kept 12 clean sheets in their last 15 games.

Kearney felt his keeper, Gareth Deane, who has just penned a new three-and-a-half-year deal with the club, earned his shut out on Saturday, but he also praised the whole team for their contribution.

“It takes all sorts to get a clean sheet and Gareth will tell you the same, he has earned his clean sheet today,” he said.

“Three or four other games this season he’s earned his clean sheet – away to Carrick in particular which was a disappointing 0-0, pulled off three or four cracking saves that day.

“There were other games when he didn’t have much to do, and it’s been about the guys in front of him.

“It’s about everybody – clean sheets, from strikers right through. There’s a good level of work about us at this moment in time. It’s important to have that base.

“It’s the hardest thing to do in football to put the ball in the back of the net.

“We’ve scored goals this season but there have been games such as against Carrick where we haven’t scored

“In the past might have lost those games and dropped a point. Are they points gained or points dropped? We’ll never know.

“But keeping those clean sheets at east gives us a basis and keeps the scoreboard ticking over.”