Coleraine 2-0 Cliftonville
Cliftonville slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in this evening’s Danske Bank Premiership encounter with Coleraine at The Showgrounds.
Scoreless at the interval, the Bannsiders pulled ahead through Josh Carson on 50 minutes before doubling their advantage courtesy of Jamie McGonigle and, though the Reds saw two efforts cleared off the line, the hosts held on for a comfortable success.
Boss Barry Gray’s pre-match assertion that his team would take a positive mentality into the contest was reflected in an attacking line-up that bore no changes from the side that overcame Ards at the weekend. It was Coleraine who settled quickest, though, and the opening exchanges made for frustrating viewing for the travelling support.
Garry Breen’s clearance prevented Eoin Bradley from stealing in on goal and, after Carson had headed into the side netting, Cliftonville carved out their first opening when Joe Gormley’s cross was acrobatically returned to the danger area by Daniel Hughes but goalkeeper Chris Johns gathered before Stephen Garrett could pounce.
At the other end, Bradley fizzed a strike across the face of goal and, just before the half-hour, confusion between Jamie Harney and goalkeeper Brett Long led to Bradley seizing possession inside the area but, rather than try his luck from an acute angle, the striker opted to try and con the referee with a blatant dive which earned a booking from Arnold Hunter.
Nine minutes before the break, Chris Curran sent a left-footed effort straight at Johns before Long collected a Ciaron Harkin strike at the end of an opening half that never found a spark.
Shortly after the turnaround, however, Coleraine were in front when Adam Mullan’s inviting low cross was firmly blasted through a busy penalty area by Carson.
The Reds’ attempts to claw their way back into proceedings saw Hughes produce a delivery that was just too high for Gormley, minutes before the home side pulled further in front when, amid offside appeals, McGonigle latched onto Carson’s throughball to get the better of Long.
Frustratingly, Cliftonville would enjoy their best spell of the game thereafter with Johns gathering from Breen before Harkin hacked a Harney header off the line.
The Coleraine keeper did well to deal with a dangerous Tomas Cosgrove cross and, when he was beaten by Gormley’s 83rd minute header, Carson was perfectly positioned to clear the danger.
Johns then did well to turn Martin Donnelly’s free-kick over the top before the Bannsiders came close to adding a third when, after beating Long in a race to a bouncing ball outside the area, Brad Lyons saw his first-time attempt bounce up and off the crossbar before being cleared by Cosgrove.
Though their victory was all but guaranteed by this stage, Coleraine carved out one final opportunity to add to their tally when the impressive Carson’s delightful cross was thunderously volleyed goalward by Bradley, who was denied by a fantastic stop from Long.
REDS: Long, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Hughes, Garrett, Bagnall, Gormley, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: Neeson, Ramsey, M Donnelly (for Hughes), Winchester (for Garrett), A Donnelly.