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Yet another tough spot

Cliftonville 2-2 Coleraine [4-5 on penalties]

For the second time this season, Cliftonville suffered penalty shootout elimination from a knockout competition as Coleraine booked their place in the BetMcLean Cup Final.

Twice ahead through Ronan Hale and Odhran Casey, the Reds were pegged back by Matthew Shevlin each time before the Bannsiders emerged 5-4 victors from the spot.

The hosts got off to a bright start and fashioned the first opening after just three minutes when Ronan Hale raced on to a Jonny Addis ball down the left but saw his cutback fall behind the supporting cast in the middle.

Soon later, however, he made the breakthrough himself when he seized on an error from Kieran Farren and clipped the ball beyond goalkeeper Gareth Deane.

Jamie McDonagh then saw a low effort come back off the base of the post before Rory Hale sent a point-blank header straight at Deane.

Coleraine’s first threat came on 32 minutes when a vicious long-range effort from Josh Carson was touched over the top by Nathan Gartside and, from the resulting corner, Chris Gallagher nodded a Dean Jarvis effort off the line.

The Reds found themselves under the cosh at the start of the second-half and, far from having to weather a brief storm, were subject to relentless pressure aided by their own inability to work the ball into the attacking third.

Even so, the Bannsiders failed to create anything clear-cut, although Gartside had to be alert to stop a Michael McCrudden cross sneaking in before fellow substitute Jamie Glackin dinked an effort onto the crossbar.

Evan McLaughlin then volleyed wide from a good position but Coleraine’s persistence paid off on 83 minutes when Shevlin was on hand to convert a Conor McDermott cross.

Indeed, the away side might have won it before extra-time when the ball fell Shevlin’s way in the goalmouth only for Jamie Robinson to produce a timely intervention.

Despite the momentum having turned against them, Cliftonville needed just two minutes to edge back in front after the re-start. When a corner was only half-cleared, Casey was on hand to slam home an eye-catching first ever goal for the Club.

Sean Moore went close to doing likewise only to see a fierce blast crack against the woodwork just two minutes before Coleraine made it 2-2; Shevlin heading home unmarked from Lee Lynch’s delivery.

The second period of extra-time produced little by way of genuine threat, but the Bannsiders should have won it in the final minute when Gartside’s save from a McCrudden shot fell to Lynch but he thundered over the top.

And so to penalties.

Gartside saved Lyndon Kane’s first kick but, ajudged to have strayed off his line, was forced to try again and duly produced another stop. Cliftonville were unable to take advantage, however, with Ronan Hale clearing the crossbar with his attempt.

The next nine penalties were all successfully converted – Carson and Chris Gallagher making it 1-1; Shevlin and Levi Ives netting for 2-2; McLaughlin just about squeezing his shot past Gartside and Colin Coates stepping up to make it 3-3.

McCrudden and Joe Gormley then exchanged strikes before Jarvis netted what ultimately proved the winner after Casey sent his kick against the bar.

Cliftonville: Gartside, Addis, Gartside, Rory Hale (Casey, 71 mins), R Curran (Gormley, 91 mins), McDonagh (Moore, 79 mins), Lowe, Robinson (Coates, 117 mins), Doherty, Turner (Ives, 112 mins), Ronan Hale. Unused subs: Donnelly, C Curran.