COLERAINE would finalise their pre-season schedule before getting their Danske Bank Premiership campaign underway with two difficult away assignments…
The next pre-season game would see Coleraine travel to The Oval for a second time to face Glentoran in east Belfast. Both teams would suffer eliminations from the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League and that showed as the first-half was a drab affair. The second-half would start at a frantic pace as both sides had early efforts off target. However, just before the hour mark, Oran Kearney’s side would have a terrific chance to make the breakthrough as Matthew Shevlin burst forward and his strike was held by Aaron McCarey. Glentoran made a raft of substitutions and the next chance would land at the feet of set piece specialist Hrvoje Plum but the midfielder’s effort failed to find the target. On 73 minutes, substitute Rory Donnelly would be the next player to try his luck but his strike lacked any conviction. On 84 minutes, Coleraine would be awarded a penalty as a great run and ball from Patrick Kelly released Conor McKendry inside the box. The winger burst forward and was upended by Marcus Kane leaving Raymond Crangle with no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The ball was expertly put into the back of the net from 12 yards by Stephen Lowry.
The last game of the pre-season schedule was meant to be Dollingstown, however, that fixture was cancelled meaning a contest against Portadown would bring an end to preparations. In a match that looked destined to end in a 0-0 draw, the Ports would net a late winner meaning the Bannsiders were edged out in the game played at Moyola.
Ahead of the opening game of the season away to Larne, the Stripes would announce the departure of defender Howard Beverland who made the switch to Ballyclare Comrades. The game against Tiernan Lynch’s side would prove to be another classic at Inver Park as the hosts took a half-time lead through Kofi Balmer’s header. Despite that setback, Coleraine would turn the game on its head to lead 2-1 as Aaron Traynor and Matthew Shevlin converted but Larne would score three successive times in the last twenty minutes through David McDaid, Ben Doherty and Lee Lynch to record a 4-2 win.
With the transfer window shutting, Coleraine would trim their squad further as Stewart Nixon agreed a permanent move back to former club Carrick Rangers, with Aaron Canning also making a switch to Dungannon Swifts on a season-long loan.
The month would end with a trip to Solitude for Coleraine and after Conor McKendry dragged an effort wide from distance, Cliftonville would have a goal disallowed for offside on 18 minutes. A ball into the box by Jamie McDonagh met the head of Gormley, and after his initial effort was saved and Ryan Curran’s strike hit the crossbar, Gormley would force the ball home but he was denied by the linesman’s flag. After the break, the introduction of Eoin Bradley sparked Coleraine into life as the striker was denied by a goal line clearance from Levi Ives, before Skinner teed up Glackin inside the area but the ex-Dungannon Swifts ace was unable to find the target. Cliftonville captain Chris Curran made a timely intervention to stop McKendry from taking the lead and that would prove to be vital as the Reds took the lead sixty seconds later. A fantastic delivery into the box by McDonagh was powerfully headed home by Gormley on 79 minutes. Paddy McLaughlin’s side made it a quick fire double as they went 2-0 ahead on 81 minutes as McDonagh was afforded too much space inside the area and his cross went into the net via a deflection from O’Donnell. Coleraine pulled one back in the closing moments through Aaron Traynor who crept in unnoticed at the back post to head Lyndon Kane’s cross past Declan Dunne but it wasn’t enough to spark a late comeback.