COLERAINE ? CRUSADERS ?
Crusaders took a massive step towards the Irish League title as they dismantled Coleraine at The Showgrounds.
Coming back from a goal down they rattled in five without reply to move nine points clear at the top.
The visistors almost made the perfect start with only 20 seconds on the clock as Billy Joe Burns bisected the home defence with an inch perfect pass to Paul Heatley, however Michael Doherty was out quickly to block his effort.
Doherty had to be at his best again on 12 minutes as Colin Coates fired in a low free kick, the keeper parried the shot but reacted well to smother the ball as Heatley closed in.
Coleraine clicked into gear as Darren McCauley and debutant Jamie McGonigle combined in the area, the young striker pull the ball back to the onrushing Ruaidhri Higgins, whose shot was deflected over the bar.
The Bannsiders edged in front on 20 minutes as McCauley was upended in the box by Joshua Robinson. Neil McCafferty stepped up and coolly slotted in his 14th of the season.
The lead lasted only two minutes though as Burns fired in a low free kick from the edge of the box after Stephen Douglas was harshly adjudged to have fouled Jordan Owens.
The league leaders edged in front six minutes later as Owens headed in Burns’ excellent cross from the right-hand side as they Coleraine defence looked on.
It got even better on 32 minutes as that man Owens punished more slack defending from the hosts as they let Sean O’Neill’s long punt forward bounce in the penalty area. Owens held off his marker before swivelling and firing his shot past Doherty.
The Crues got off to the best possible start to the second half. Paul Heatley jinked past Aaron Canning just 40 seconds after the restart before firing a low shot past Doherty, the keeper though should have done better.
It went from bad to worse four minutes later as Gavin Whyte ghosted past McNeill before whipping a great ball into the box for Heatley to glance home.
Coleraine spurned a great opportunity to pull a goal back on the hour mark as Ruaidhri Higgins’ deep cross picked out the unmarked David Ogilby at the back post, but he screwed his shot off target.
Coleraine’s woes were compounded on 65 minutes as Doherty was shown a straight red card for upending Heatley as he broke clear. Full back Aaron Canning donned the gloves and he was relieved to see Coates free kick crash into the wall.
Coleraine: Doherty, Canning, McNeill, Ogilby, Douglas, Higgins, McCafferty, McGinty (Browne 61), McCauley, McGonigle (Watt 68), Parkhill.
Subs: Mullan, Kane, Lyons.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, McClean, Coates, Robinson, Caddell, Heatley (Hanley 79), Whyte, Adamson (Molloy 46), Owens (O’Carroll 62), Clarke.
Subs: Hanley, McKibbin, Magowan.
Referee: I McNabb.