FEBRUARY would see the Bannsiders remain unbeaten as they won three and drew three in the Danske Bank Premiership…
The Stripes went in search for the seventh successive win as they welcomed Cliftonville to The Showgrounds. In a game played in difficult conditions, Cliftonville stormed out of the blocks and got off to a dream start with a goal after only four minutes. High profile debutant Paul O’Neill flicked the ball on to another recent signing Rory Hale who cleverly lobbed Gareth Deane. Coleraine responded well however and hit back. Aaron Traynor celebrated his 100th appearance for the club by scoring his first goal of the season after 20 minutes. The defender was on hand to follow up and slot home after Aaron McCarey had failed to hold Gareth McConaghie’s well struck free kick. Three minutes before the break, Jamie Glackin released Ian Parkhill and when he crossed into the box, James McLaughlin was quickest to react at the near post as he fired home. McLaughlin tried to add to his tally with a 73rd minute shot from outside the area which was scooped up by McCarey. Glackin cut into the box and bent an effort wide and then McLaughlin went close again. But it was Cliftonville who levelled four minutes from time with O’Neill bundling the ball in from close range after persistent work by Daire O’Connor. Coleraine almost grabbed a sensational winner in injury time but Parkhill’s drive smashed off the crossbar.
Coleraine would next face Portadown on the Ballycastle Road and the Stripes would once again be left frustrated as they drew 1-1 against Matthew Tipton’s side. In a low key first-half, it was Curtis Allen who had a great chance to break the deadlock sixty seconds before the break but Jacob Carney, on loan from Manchester United, got a vital touch to the striker’s lob and defender Scannell completed the clearance. It was super sub Stewart Nixon who provided an instant impact as he put the home side in front on 67 minutes. Within seconds of replacing Josh Carson, he collected Gallagher’s long clearance. His attempted cross came back to him and he planted his shot past Carney at the near post. But Portadown’s response was emphatic as they equaliser on 73 minutes. Christopher Lavery advanced down the left and crossed to Salley who lashed the ball past a helpless Gallagher. Portadown were forced to defend for the final few minutes after goalscorer Salley was sent off four minutes from time for a lunge on Lyndon Kane but they held on for a share of the spoils.
A midweek derby would await Coleraine as they made the short journey to Ballymena United. In a scrappy first-half, chances were at a premium but Coleraine did have the ball in the net after just nine minutes, with Curtis Allen claiming the goal after touching in James McLaughlin’s effort but referee Tony Clarke spotted the striker had handled the ball. Ballymena went close after 35 minutes from a Ross Redman corner. Aaron Canning, making his 300th appearance, headed his clearance towards his own goal but Lyndon Kane was on the line to clear the danger. The visitors should have been in front within four minutes of the restart but McLaughlin was wrongly ruled to have fouled ‘keeper Jordan Williamson as he headed home Gareth McConaghie’s free kick. However, there was no doubt about the goal that decided the game. When substitute Stewart Nixon’s cross was headed clear, Lyndon Kane pounced from just outside the edge of the box and lashed a left foot drive past the startled Williamson to clinch all three points.
Coleraine would then stretch their unbeaten run to ten matches as they drew 0-0 with Linfield at Windsor Park. Both defences were well marshalled and neither side had too many clear sights at goal in an evenly contested first-half. Ex Blues forward Matthew Shevlin, leading the line after returning from injury, had a shot from another Nixon cross deflected into the ‘keepers arms. Linfield threatened at the other end as Jordan Stewart fired just wide after displaying his customary close skills to evade several challenges. Shayne Lavery had a great chance to open the scoring after 79 minutes when he found himself in space but headed Stewart’s cross wide from close range. Jimmy Callacher also went close with a header from Quinn’s corner moments later. But it was Bannsiders’ substitute Eoin Bradley who had the best chance of the match five minutes from time. He was teed up following a great Jamie Glackin run but Johns got down well to block his shot.
The matches just kept on coming as Oran Kearney’s men were the visitors to Carrick Rangers. After passing a pitch inspection at 4pm, the Bannsiders would enjoy having the wind in their backs in the first-half but it would it be the hosts who would have the first opportunity of the game as Lee Chapman’s ambitious effort sailed over the crossbar. The ball would be in the net on 45 minutes as Stephen Lowry’s pass cut through the hosts’ defence and land at the feet of Lyndon Kane. The full-back squared the ball to Curtis Allen who lashed home but he would be denied by the linesman’s flag. However, the deadlock was broken on 58 minutes as Lyndon Kane picked up the ball and drove forward and played a one-two with Allen. Just when it looked like he was going to shoot, he was fouled by Mark Surgeoner but referee Lee Tavinder played the advantage with Allen making no mistake from close range. The game was put to bed on 76 minutes as the ball fortuitously landed at Allen who grabbed his 11th career goal against Carrick Rangers to make it a 2-0 win.
The month would end with Coleraine hosting Warrenpoint Town at The Showgrounds as the Bannsiders moved up to second in the Danske Bank Premiership table. It was in-form Coleraine who grabbed an early lead through Curtis Allen. The striker followed up his midweek double at Carrick by slotting home Ian Parkhill’s tenth minute cross after good work by Matthew Shevlin. And the experienced marksman pounced again to double the advantage nine minutes later. He reacted quickly to collect Parkhill’s shot before turning and rifling the ball past goalkeeper Gabriel Sava. Jamie Glackin went close to putting the game beyond Town after 21 minutes but Dan Byrne got back to clear his effort off the line. Despite winning only one of their last nine games, Warrenpoint showed their battling qualities and they hauled themselves back into the contest with a goal on the half hour mark. Jake O’Connor advanced down the right wing before crossing into the box and Fra McCaffery was on hand to drill the ball past Gareth Deane. Chances were limited during the early second half exchanges, with Glackin and Parkhill having half chances before Warrenpoint’s Brandon Doyle went down appealing for a penalty. Town began to flex their muscle, however, and it took a stunning triple save from Deane after 70 minutes to keep the Bannsiders in front. The ‘keeper made a great stop to deny substitute Adam Carroll and then reacted quickly to get down at his near post to twice keep out Doyle as Coleraine held firm.