ATHLONE Town manager, Keith Long was full of praise for goalkeeping hero, Ryan Coulter who was largely responsible for securing a vital point for the relegation threatened club at Brandywell on Friday night.
Derry singer songwriter, Phil Coulter was present in the Glentoran Stand and watched his son produce several outstanding saves to deny a wasteful Derry City three points.
Coulter denied Patrick McEleney in the first half with a terrific one-handed save and bravely blocked Rory Patterson’s goalbound strike in the second.
And while the home side really should have capitalised on a host of chances, particularly in the second half, Coulter was hailed the ‘man of the match’ by his delighted manager.
“There were big moments in the game when Ryan stood up and he pulled off a couple of world class saves,” said Long. “It was obviously important to him with his dad here and the connections with Derry. Everybody knows the Coulters are synonymous with Derry.
“So I’m delighted for Ryan. He’s come in and has done really well for us,” added the Athlone boss. “He’s made some important saves and he’s a good character and works really hard.
“It’s not just Ryan, however, because all the players dug in and showed a good spirit.”
The point secured could prove crucial in Athlone’s battle against the drop as they closed to within one point of second from bottom UCD at the weekend.
And following a dismal start to their campaign, it would be a near miraculous feat for the midlanders should they avoid an immediate return to the First Division.
“It wasn’t an ideal start to the season for us with zero points after 10 games but we have some good players in this team that can get on the ball and effect the game positively when we have the ball.
“We fear no team and that’s not bravado, that’s the reality because we have good footballers and the goal against Derry in the first was a reflection of what we can do when we have the ball.
“There’s four games left and every one of them is a cup final for us. Every point is important. “That wasn’t the case against Derry because we were up against a very good Derry side.
“They pass the ball well and stretch the game. It’s going to take character and guts for us to survive and that was evident in our play against Derry.
“There’s no doubt about it, that was a big point for us. It was a real battling performance. Derry put out a really strong side and I think that’s important for the integrity of the league at this moment so it was a big point for us.
“The lads dug in and we rode our luck at times but I’m proud of the players. They put in a shift, worked hard and we got that bit of luck that you sometimes need,” he concluded.