It’s the end of August and my last few games in Northern Ireland until Christmas.
Game 9: Glentoran 2-2 Coleraine (The Oval, Belfast – 18.8.2018)
This was a strange game. Coleraine never really got going, despite taking the lead before half time and two early second half goals from Glentoran, the second an absolute peach from Peter McMahon, saw the Bannsiders’ unbeaten domestic run, which stretches back to last October, come under serious threat.
There wasn’t much football being played by either team and frustration was clearly setting in for Coleraine as they faced an opponent who just sat back and invited them to try and break them down. They should have had a penalty when seemingly everyone in the ground except the referee and linesman saw Brad Lyons getting tripped as he went round his opponent inside the area. Then just as all appeared lost, Coleraine dug deep and came up with the goods, Darren McCauley got the right side of his marker, whipped in a perfect cross and Eoin Bradley’s head applied the finish. I think the photo adequately sums up the feelings of all involved!
Game 10: Coleraine 2-2 Institute (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 24.8.2018)
Another odd game where Coleraine performed way below-par and were somewhat lucky to escape with a point.
Institute started well and deservedly led at the break. In between torrential rain showers in the second half, Coleraine managed to turn things around. First Jamie McGonigle opened his account for the season to equalise and then Brad Lyons grabbed his second goal in two games to put them in front.
But the victory slipped away thanks to a rash and needless challenge from Stephen Lowry which conceded a penalty, duly converted by ‘Stute captain Michael McCrudden.
Game 11: Coleraine 2-1 Ballyclare Comrades (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 28.8.2018)
Because it is seeded, the second round of the Northern Irish League Cup always pits Premiership sides against lower-League opposition. Coleraine manager Oran Kearney’s mantra for this fixture is always the same – There’s a shock every year, don’t let it be us.
On this occasion, it could easily have been as Coleraine had to dig deep to see if the challenge of a spirited Ballyclare team, who started well and took a deserved lead when Gary Donnelly beat Chris Johns at the second attempt after the Bannsiders’ number one had kept out his initial effort.
Coleraine could have been further behind by the time Jamie McGonigle equalised. There were shades of Karius in the Champions League Final as the Ballyclare goalkeeper let his shot slip through his hands and into the net.
He did redeem himself with a couple of good saves in the second half, although his task was made easier by the Coleraine players’ infuriating habit of hitting the ball straight at him most of the time.
Just as it looked like the game would go to Extra Time, sub Ian Parkhill curled home an excellent strike to win it and send Coleraine through.