OCTOBER would prove to be a costly month for the Bannsiders as they suffered their first league defeat 32 matches, as well as crashing out of two cup competitions…
Rodney McAree’s side would face a difficult assignment at the start of October as Gary Hamilton’s high flying Glenavon were the visitors to The Showgrounds. On a warm sunny day, things got off to a good start as Aaron Burns delightfully headed home from Darren McCauley’s cross on 24 minutes. However, the game would turn on its head before the interval as Glenavon responded with two goals inside a minute to put Coleraine on the back foot. Rhys Marshall levelled proceedings after he capitalised on a week clearance from Chris Johns and tapped home from 6 yards, before Stephen Murray put the Lurgan Blues ahead almost immediately after the game restarted. The striker did well to get on the end of Andrew Hall’s cross to make no mistake from close range. The Stripes would suffer their first defeat in 32 matches after the break as Murray completed his hat-trick with two fantastic finishes.
The Stripes would aim to make up for that loss as they made the trip to Wales in the third round of the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup. The Coleraine support travelled in large numbers but the Bannsiders would ultimately pay for a lacklustre second-half performance. Both sides struggled with the windy conditions in the first half and the second proved to be no different. With little to report by way of chances after the break, it was Connah’s Quay who grabbed the advantage. A long throw in from Andy Owens caught the Coleraine defence cold and George Horan climbed highest for the home side to nod home from inside the area. An-already difficult task would prove to be even tougher as Stephen O’Donnell and Stephen Lowry both received their marching orders midway through the second-half. The home side doubled their lead in the dying minutes as Andy Owens tapped home Bakare’s cross from close range.
That defeat had left the Bannsiders without a win in six games in all competitions as they welcomed Crusaders to The Showgrounds in the Danske Bank Premiership. McAree would taste success for the first time as Coleraine manager despite suffering two injury setbacks as strikers James McLaughlin and Aaron Burns had to be withdrawn from proceedings. However as the game entered the final 20 minutes, defender Gareth McConaghie stepped up and curled a free-kick into the corner to register the Stripes’ first win since beating the same opponents back in September.
Eoin Bradley netted from the spot twice as Coleraine edged out Dergview in the North-West Cup quarter-final at The Showgrounds. The Bannsiders’ starting line-up also featured the experienced Steven Douglas and Paul Owens, but in truth, the fixture provided an eye to the future as many players from Ollie Mullan’s under-20 side were given a chance to impress. The first-half would be the tale of two penalties as Dergview were awarded a spot-kick on 38 minutes as Rory Brown fouled Smith inside the box. However the ‘keeper redeemed himself by diving to his left-hand side to deny Adam Buchanan from the spot. On the stroke of half-time the Bannsiders were awarded a penalty after a handball inside the area. Up-stepped Eoin Bradley who drilled the ball into the net to give the home side the lead at the interval. Dergview started the second-half on the front foot and got a deserved equaliser on 54 minutes as a poor defensive clearance allowed Adam Buchanan to slot into the bottom corner. On 68 minutes, the Bannsiders were awarded a second penalty as Eoin Bradley was tumbled inside the box, with the striker making no mistake once again to give the Stripes the lead. Both teams would create half chances in the subsequent 20 minutes but Coleraine held firm to secure their passage into the semi-final.
Coleraine would hope to use the momentum gained from that morale winning performance against the Crues as Cliftonville made the journey to the North Coast. The Reds would have different ideas as they raced into an early 2-0 lead. Talented full-back Levi Ives would curl a delightful free-kick beyond the reach of Chris Johns from 30 yards, before Rory Donnelly nodded home from Chris Curran’s corner-kick. The Bannsiders rallied and reduced the deficit before half time. Stephen O’Donnell’s long ball found McGonigle who beat his man before dashing into the penalty area creating an opening for Darren McCauley who converted from close range. After the break, Darren McCauley forced Richard Brush into action on the hour mark as Coleraine searched for an equaliser which failed to arrive as the Reds clinched all three points.
The Stripes would end October on the road as they made the trip to The Oval for a third round League Cup tie against Glentoran in what proved to be a thriller. The deadlock was broken on 21 minutes as Josh Carson’s free-kick delivery went straight into the net. However that lead was quickly cut out as Glentoran were awarded a free-kick of their own at the edge of the box. Former Celtic midfielder John Herron stepped-up and scored as the ball took a wicked deflection off Aaron Burns in the Coleraine wall. On 62 minutes, Ronnie McFall’s side would hit the front as a crisp delivery by Nathan Kerr found Allen inside the area and he nodded past Johns. Bannsiders boss Rodney McAree brought on Jamie McGonigle and Alexander Gawne to find a route back into the match and it paid dividends on 85 minutes. After Glentoran failed to clear their lines, the ball landed into the path of McGonigle who struck the ball into the net via the post.
The Bannsiders were back in front on 109 minutes as referee Evan Boyce pointed to the spot for a handball by James Ferrin. The responsibility was given to McGonigle who coolly dispatched into the bottom corner. Frustratingly that lead was cancelled out a minute later as Ross Redman was afforded too much space on the by-line and his cut back found Allen who couldn’t miss from close range to send the game into penalties. The spot kicks were taken under the new ABBA system as Dylan Davidson missed first for Glentoran. The next two spot-kicks by Coleraine were also missed as Lowry fired over the bar and McCauley drilled straight at Morris. Allen would find the net for the Glens there after but Herron hit the bar. Coleraine would hit the front as Bradley and McGonigle both powered by Morris. Those penalties were cancelled out by Gallagher and Crowe being successful. This meant Burns would have to score for the Bannsiders but his spot-kick hit the crossbar as Coleraine exited the League Cup.