Stephen O'Donnell proud of Coleraine's defensive record

It probably wasn’t a big surprise that the defences came out on top in Saturday’s massive game at The Showgrounds.

Only Linfield have a better defensive record than Coleraine and Cliftonville in the Danske Bank Premiership.

And while both sides are up there in the goal-scoring stakes as well, it was the rearguard who took the opportunity to shine at the weekend.

Important blocks, great tackles and big saves meant the Bannsiders and the Reds had to make do with a share of the spoils.

Coleraine’s Lyndon Kane get back on the line to clear Jonny Addis’ goal-bound effort

Coleraine skipper Stephen O’Donnell led from the front against a potent Cliftonville frontline, and when he wasn’t there to deny them Lyndon Kane was on hand, clearing Jonny Addis’ late effort off the line before Gareth Deane mopped up the danger.

O’Donnell said the Bannsiders take pride in shutting out the opposition, although he was disappointed they couldn’t find a breakthrough at the other end.

“In big games you need big moments,” he said.

“For myself, and I know Lyndon would say the same, it’s just about doing your job and making sure Deansy doesn’t have too much to do.

“He’ll not know himself today as he had to make a save!

“We take pride in our clean sheets. It’s not just about the back four and Deansy, we defend as a team.

“When the lines are tightened and we’re operating on all fronts as a unit we’re really hard to break down and hard to beat. It is something to be proud of.

“But in the same token when we go forward it’s all our responsibility.

“It was 0-0 today and there weren’t too many chances, but we didn’t get on the end of any set pieces.

“Cliftonville had a couple of big moments too with blocks and their keeper made a great save in the first half.

“So as an entire team we all have to take responsibility to defend and attack.”

As the game moved into the last 15 minutes although not settling for a point you could sense neither side wanted to lose the game.

“As the game crept on towards 75-80 minutes it was probably about not losing it but still trying to have that foothold on the game,” said O’Donnell.

“Overall though, in terms of the whole game I think a draw was probably a fair result.

“The amount of respect both teams have for each other, given the quality both sides have in the final third we had to be a bit more cautious in our third to make sure we weren’t giving up chances.

“I think both teams probably felt like that and that restricted the amount of chances that were created, and restricted the amount of free-flowing football which both teams have played over the last couple of months.”