2021/22 Season Review: February
FEBRUARY would see Coleraine win two out of their four Danske Bank Premiership fixtures as they also reached the third round of the Irish Cup…
Coleraine started the month with a second round tie in the Irish Cup against Portadown at The Showgrounds. Despite fighting for their Premiership status, the visitors started the better and should have taken the lead when Adam Salley fired over when one-on-one before Stephen Teggart rattled the crossbar from 25 yards. Oran Kearney’s men would end the half brightly as Mitchell used the wind to his advantage to force Barr into a smart stop, before the January arrival would square the ball to Matthew Shevlin but he was unable to stab the ball home from a good position. However, the first goal of the contest would arrive on the hour mark in bizarre fashion. A corner kick was cleared into the path of Lyndon Kane and his looping header went into the back of the net as Ports stopper Barr was involved in an off the ball altercation with Mitchell. A second goal from the Stripes would definitely see Coleraine through and it duly arrived on 88 minutes as Stephen O’Donnell’s cross field pass turned into a great pass for the onrushing Josh Carson to rifle home an unstoppable effort.
The Bannsiders wouldn’t have to wait long for their next task as Dungannon Swifts made their way to the North Coast three days later. With a quarter of an hour played, the Stripes would be awarded a penalty kick but Lyndon Kane’s effort from 12 yards was expertly kept out by Declan Dunne. Despite that setback, Coleraine would score twice before the half-time whistle to put themselves in a commanding position. A defence splitting pass by Jamie Glackin found Curtis Allen through on goal and the marksman made no mistake with a clinical finish on 40 seconds. Remarkably, just 60 seconds later, Oran Kearney’s men would double their advantage as a poor pass by Cathal McGinty was seized upon by Josh Carson who drove through on goal before burying a strike into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games. The Swifts – who had won six out of their last seven games in all competitions – missed two great chances to half the deficit after the interval as Deane leaped to keep out Campbell’s effort, before Kane was alert to prevent Ryan Mayse’s rebound on the goal line. On 86 minutes, two substitutes nearly combined to make it 3-0 as a wonderful free-kick delivery by Conor McKendry found Matthew Shevlin inside the box but the striker was unable to correct his footing as the Swifts survived.
A busy week would see Coleraine embark on their travels to face in-form Cliftonville at Solitude in the first of three big games between the sides. The opening 45 minutes wouldn’t yield a goal but it wasn’t for the want of trying as Jamie McDonagh twice tested the gloves of Gareth Deane, whilst at the other end, Josh Carson and Lyndon Kane both had sights of goal. However, Cliftonville did draw first blood on 48 minutes as McDonagh fed Kris Lowe on the right-hand-side. The versatile defender would send a cross into the box that was met by the instinctive Ryan Curran who had a simple task of tapping the ball into an empty net. Oran Kearney’s men went in search for an instant equaliser and went agonisingly close just two minutes later as a dangerous cross by Jamie Glackin met Conor McKendry at the back post but the winger couldn’t convert. That missed chance would be further compounded on 52 minutes as Cliftonville doubled their lead. An overload on the left-hand side saw Ronan Doherty have the vision to pick out Curran and he lashed home his second of the afternoon. The Stripes brought on James McLaughlin and Curtis Allen in a bid to get back into the contest and they were a lick of paint away from halving the deficit. A cross into the box by Glackin met the onrushing Stephen Lowry and his skimmed header hit the post as Cliftonville cleared their lines and ran out 2-0 victors.
Oran Kearney’s men knew they needed to clinch all three points from a midweek visit of Warrenpoint Town to close the gap on fifth place to a solitary point. In truth, the visitors should have led at the break as Luke-Wade Slater sent a crisp volley inches wide of the far post, with the same player blazing over when one-on-one with Gareth Deane. Coleraine wouldn’t have to wait long to make the breakthrough after the interval as they edged ahead on 48 minutes. A dangerous corner kick by Jamie Glackin was diverted into his own goal by Wade Slater. After Stephen Lowry fizzed a half volley over the crossbar, the visitors would restore parity as the ball was played into the path of Alan O’Sullivan. The substitute would be allowed to turn inside the area but his strike squirmed under the arms of Deane and into the net. However, there would be late drama as Coleraine bagged the all important third goal of the contest. A superb pass from Jamie Glackin released Josh Carson down the left-hand-side and his cross was met by the Daniel Byrne who scored an own goal after being put under pressure by Lowry.
The Stripes were due to travel to Milltown that weekend for a second successive game against Warrenpoint but that fixture would fall victim to the weather. As a result, Coleraine ended the month with a visit of Ballymena United to The Showgrounds. After a slow opening, a foul by Michael Place on Josh Carson resulted in Andrew Davey pointing to the spot with Lyndon Kane dispatching from 12 yards despite a strong glove by O’Neill. Remarkably, Coleraine would have a second penalty kick on 28 minutes as James McLaughlin was upended by Sean O’Neill inside the area. However, this time Kane failed to convert as his strike sailed over the crossbar. In a pulsating end to the first 45 minutes, United did respond as Place’s corner kick met the head of Caolan Loughran who guided the ball home despite the best efforts of Stephen O’Donnell on the goal line. The fixture – which was played with a strong wind – would see the Stripes smash the crossbar on 69 minutes as Patrick Kelly had the vision to pick out the onrushing Matthew Shevlin. The striker took a neat first touch and hit an effort that cannoned off the woodwork with United clearing the resulting danger. With less than a quarter of an hour remaining, David Jeffrey’s side would create a glorious chance of their own as a trademark cross by Steven McCullough was headed over the bar by a sliding Paul McElroy. Following that, good play by substitute David Parkhouse released Leroy Millar on the edge of the box but his effort failed to trouble Gareth Deane. A last furore of action would see Deane save Ryan Waide’s onto the post after being found by Parkhouse, with Coleraine having a goal disallowed for offside as Curtis Allen stabbed home from Ronan Wilson’s cross.