COLERAINE 4 CLIFTONVILLE 1
Coleraine moved up to fifth position in the Danske Bank Premiership after a deserved 4-1 win over Cliftonville at The Showgrounds on New Year’s Day.
The visitors’ defensive woes continued in the first-half as a quickfire double from Eoin Bradley and Stephen Lowry had the Bannsiders well on their way.
Barry Gray’s men improved after the interval and found a way back into the game as Liam Bagnall found the net after great play from Gormley, but Aaron Canning’s 77th minute thunderbolt settled matters on the North Coast before substitute James McLaughlin got in on the act late on.
It was the Reds who threatened first after two minutes as a long throw-in found Joe Gormley inside the box but the league’s top goalscorer fired over the crossbar.
That scare sparked the home side into life and they nearly took the lead on 12 minutes as a defensive mix-up in the Cliftonville back line let Jamie McGonigle through on goal. The attacker cut inside but Richard Brush was there to keep his effort at bay.
The breakthrough arrived on 20 minutes as full-back Adam Mullan found the run of McGonigle who beat the offside trap. The Northern Ireland under-21 international ran into the box to square to Eoin Bradley who converted from close range.
Barry Gray’s men fell further behind a minute later as Cliftonville’s defensive frailties were on show once again. A through ball by Ciaron Harkin found Stephen Lowry in space and the midfielder had all the time in the world to find the bottom corner.
The Bannsiders smelled blood and nearly grabbed a third on 32 minutes as a long ball found Bradley and he chested the ball into the path of Josh Carson. The ex-Linfield man took a neat first touch and his dipping effort was forced over the bar by an alert Brush.
Cliftonville looked for a response before the break and carved out two half opportunities as Rory Donnelly fired over from long range, before Ryan Curran arrowed wide after showing neat foot work on the by-line.
The North Belfast side made the better start to the second-half and almost pulled a goal back on 57 minutes as a deep cross found Donnelly at the back post but Graham Crown was there to clear on the line.
The Irish Cup holders should have put the game to bed on 62 minutes as a long ball was held up by Bradley. The striker held off the challenge of Jaimie Harney to pick out Darren McCauley who went on a long run but he could only fire wide.
At the other end, Gormley would spurn another chance as he was fed the ball by Donnelly but he couldn’t find the target. However the visitors’ pressure would finally be rewarded on 69 minutes as Gormley outmuscled Crown on the by-line to square the ball into Liam Bagnall to fire past Johns via a deflection.
That lifeline wasn’t taken by the Reds as Coleraine quickly regained their two-goal cushion as the ball wasn’t cleared from a corner and full-back Aaron Canning found the back of the net for his first strike since re-joining the club.
There was time for Rodney McAree’s men to add further gloss to the scoreline as a long ball found James McLaughlin who rounded Brush and slotted home with his first touches since coming off the bench.
COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan, Harkin, McCauley (Parkhill ’87 mins), Lowry, Bradley (McLaughlin ’87 mins), Carson, Crown (Douglas ’71 mins), McConaghie, McGonigle, Canning.
Subs Not Used: Doherty (GK), O’Donnell, Gawne, Whiteside.
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McGovern, Ives (Lavery ’79 mins), Harney, C Curran (McMenamin ’79 mins), R Curran, R Donnelly, Bagnall, Catney, Gormley, McNulty.
Subs Not Used: McKenna (GK), Breen, McConnell, Maguire, A Donnelly.
Referee: Tony Clarke