The games are coming thick and fast at the start of the new season and I’m getting in a lot of matches at home before a long autumn of Spanish football.
Game 6: Coleraine 2-0 Cliftonville (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 15.8.2017)
Coleraine’s first home game of the season saw them entertain Cliftonville, a potential rival for European qualification at the end of the season. Both sides had enjoyed eye-catching wins on the opening day, Coleraine won 3-1 at Dungannon, notable as they only came to life after going down to ten men early in the second half, while Cliftonville beat Ards 6-3.
Much of the pre-match discussion focused on whether Coleraine could keep Cliftonville’s star man Joe ‘The Goal’ Gormley quiet, but as things turned out, he was a peripheral figure and it was Coleraine’s attacking players who stole the show. Ex-Northern Ireland international Josh Carson swept home the opener after a neat one-two between Darren McCauley and Adam Mullan, then he turned provider with an inch-perfect through ball for Jamie McGonigle’s second.
I had a great view of proceedings from the Coleraine press box as I worked on live updates from the club twitter account.
Game 7: Crusaders 1-2 Coleraine (Seaview, Belfast – 19.8.2017)
On the road for my first away game of the league season and it looked set to be a tough one, as Coleraine hadn’t managed to win at the North Belfast venue since January 2010, on a day when a player who scored four goals for them was booed by the travelling fans (long story).
Against a side known for aerial dominance, it was quite ironic that Coleraine took the lead through a headed goal. David Ogilby flicked the ball on for Eoin Bradley, who got up to nod the ball past three defenders and the goalkeeper and into the net. Just before the break, centre back Stephen O’Donnell made it 2-0 with a towering header from a corner.
Crusaders came out fired up for the second half and immediately set out doing what they do best, putting the Coleraine defence under pressure with high balls into the box. But Coleraine stood up well to this examination of character, even after Ogilby received a second yellow card for deliberate hand ball, forcing them to play out the last 25 minutes with ten men. Crusaders did get a goal in injury time, though by that point it was a mere consolation. At the end, the Coleraine players and staff came over to show their appreciation to the travelling fans (shown above).
The journey back up the M2 always seems much shorter after games like that!