Three games included as we leave August and enter September and more importantly, mark this series’ transition from Northern Ireland to Spain.
Game 8: Coleraine 2-1 Warrenpoint Town (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 25.8.2017)
The second home game of the season saw Coleraine look to extend their 100% start to the season against newly promoted Warrenpoint. This they did, but it was nowhere near as straightforward as some might have expected. This can be summed up in Coleraine’s opening goal, which actually started with an outstanding save from goalkeeper Chris Johns before a sweeping move took the ball up the other end and allowed Jamie McGonigle the opportunity to score from close range.
But Coleraine were caught cold on the stroke of half time. As some unusually static defending allowed Darren Murray the time and space to pick his spot and rifle the ball past Johns for an equaliser. But Murray then made his teammates’ task a much more difficult one when early in the second half he clattered into Coleraine’s Brad Lyons and earned himself a second yellow card.
With a man advantage, Coleraine looked to push on and with Darren McCauley restored to his favoured position on the left wing, they really started to turn the screw. Eventually the goal came, Ian Parkhill put in adept cross to Darren McCauley, who drilled the ball past the Warrenpoint ‘keeper to seal the win.
Four wins from four and top of the league, although only for a few hours as Linfield beat Ballymena the following afternoon to go ahead on goal difference.
Game 9: Coleraine 4-1 Larne (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 30.8.2017)
“There’s always an upset, don’t let it be us.” Back in my previous life working on Coleraine’s website, I heard those words countless times from players and manager alike. The second round of the league cup always pits Premiership teams against lower division opposition and in recent years there have been a number of high-profile casualties. Coleraine’s chances of avoiding an upset were boosted by the game being switched to The Showgrounds, which also benefitted me as it meant I was able to head to one last game before my departure for another term teaching in Spain.
Not much to report from this one in the end. A blitz of three goals in six minutes at the end of the first half put Coleraine’s victory beyond doubt. Joe McCready grabbed his first two goals for the club either side of an own goal. In the second half Ian Parkhill danced through the Larne defence, played a neat one-two with Eoin Bradley before passing to McCauley who made it 4-0.
Larne did get a consolation with the goal of the night, Daniel Reynolds beating Chris Johns with an unstoppable volley. If Coleraine are still in the league cup and top of the league when I come back for my Christmas holidays, I’ll be pretty happy.
Game 10: Spain 3-0 Italy (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – 2.9.2017)
This is a bit of a change of scenery! It’s become something of a tradition for me to spend my first weekend back in Spain away at a football match. This year I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the sold-out Spain v Italy World Cup qualifier, the biggest match in Europe that weekend. And it didn’t disappoint!
Isco was brilliant, scoring two goals, including a superb free kick, in the first half before sub Alvaro Morata added a third in the second half. But arguably the biggest cheer of the night came for David Villa, who came on for the last three minutes for his first cap in more than three years.
I’ll be writing a full entry about the game next week, complete with more photos, so keep an eye out for that!