So the 2019/20 Irish League season is up and running! And it’s not exactly been a perfect start for Coleraine…
Coleraine kicked off the season against a Cliftonville side mourning the sudden death of former manager Tommy Breslin in the week leading up to the game. A minute of applause was held before kick off to honour a man who was universally respected within Irish League circles.
Once the action got underway, Coleraine started impressively and created the best scoring opportunities of the first half. James McLaughlin who scored a brilliant overhead kick against the same opponents last season almost repeated the trick but on this occasion his acrobatic effort was just inches wide and just before the break, a heavily deflected shot from Ben Doherty rattled the frame of the goal with Richard Brush well beaten.
Doherty then helped set up the opener after the break, his cross from the left being finished by Eoin Bradley (who definitely enjoyed celebrating in front of the away fans who had been giving him stick all game).
Coleraine appeared to be comfortable but disaster struck a minute from the end of normal time. A slip from Gareth McConaghie allowed Cliftonville to put a cross in and pick out Joe Gormley at the back post, who had a simple tap-in to make it 1-1.
Match Price: £12 💷
Match Rating 8/10
On the road for the first time in the league this season, I headed to The Oval which has long been one of my favourite away grounds, even if Coleraine’s record there was abysmal for quite a few years.
For the first 15 minutes Coleraine played like they had against Cliftonville, pressing high up the pitch and almost taking the lead on a couple of occasions. But after that the intensity dropped off and they were pretty lucky to make it to half time still level.
The second half started much better. First Eoin Bradley converted from the penalty spot after he had been fouled and then Aaron Canning headed in from a corner to seemingly put the Bannsiders in control.
But the game turned on a moment of madness from James McLaughlin, who kicked out in reaction to a challenge and was shown a straight red card. Within three minutes, it was game on as the Glens’ Croatian defender Plum sweetly dispatched a contentiously-awarded free kick.
Now under almost constant pressure, it just felt like a matter of time before the equaliser came and it duly did with eight minutes remaining, O’Neill reacting quickest to a loose ball in the box and poking it past Johns.
Match Price: £12 💷
Match Rating: 8.5/10