Well, it was when I first wrote this. Now I’m back in Spain and the holidays seem a distant memory. While I was at home I took the opportunity to catch-up on my home team, so here’s a nice Coleraine-centric edition of 2019/20 in Pictures.
As I wrote about in a recent post, Boxing Day is one of the best days in the Northern Irish football calendar. As long as your team wins.
In truth it was never really in doubt that Coleraine would win this particular match. Despite their own inconsistent form over the previous few games, they quickly made their superiority felt.
The opener from Josh Carson was a brilliant strike, powerfully drilled home with his left foot as he cut inside. His celebration, a stumbling knee slide, didn’t quite match up to it.
The second goal wasn’t long in coming, Eoin Bradley wasted his opportunity when one-on-one with Ballymena goalkeeper Jordan Williamson, but Jamie Glackin spared his blushes by volleying into the unguarded net.
Largely untroubled thus far, Chris Johns made a couple of excellent saves before the end of the first half, the second of which saw him diving at full stretch to tip away a Tony Kane free kick.
The second half was conditioned by Coleraine’s lead and the fact that Williamson was sent off just after the hour for handling outside his area as he dived to deny Bradley. With no goalkeeper on the bench, Ballymena were forced to bring on an outfield player between the posts and he made a few half decent saves to keep the score respectable.
While the bumper home crowd would no doubt have loved to see Coleraine score a few more goals, they were aware that there were bigger challenges coming up soon for Oran Kearney’s men…
Match Rating: 8/10
Match Cost: £12 💷
Two days on and The Showgrounds was packed out again for a match which held even greater importance at the top of the league.
Linfield arrived smarting after taking a heavy beating from Glentoran on Boxing Day and as a result, made six changes to their starting line-up. Oran Kearney stuck with the same XI that had started against Ballymena. With this in mind, it was no surprise that Linfield were fresher and made most of the running in the early stages, although Coleraine mostly limited them to pot shots from distance.
Most of these didn’t really trouble Chris Johns too much, but Stephen Fallon’s 13th minute effort surprised everyone (including himself) by looping beyond the Coleraine number one to give Linfield the lead.
Coleraine gradually began to to reassert themselves and came more into the contest as the first half progressed, albeit without really threatening an equaliser. All that changed after the break, with the Bannsiders now firmly on the front foot and pinning Linfield back inside their own half.
A number of corners came and went before a towering header from Aaron Canning levelled the scores on 55 minutes. It was all one-way traffic now, even more so after a Ryan McGivern received a second booking on 72 minutes, leaving Linfield to play out the rest of the game a man down.
Coleraine pushed forward, leaving a couple of gaps at the back which required Johns being at his best to keep the scores level, but right at the death they should have won it. Jamie Glackin was well-places to shoot but unselfishly squared the ball to James McLaughlin, who struck his shot well, but just too close to Linfield goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson.
An exciting way to close off the old year, with one of the best matches I’ve seen in it!
Match Rating: 9/10
Match Cost: £12 💷