DESPITE the season officially coming to an end earlier this week, colerainefc.com takes a look back on the 2021/22 campaign starting with European commitments and pre-season action…
At the start of the transfer window, Coleraine would announce the arrivals of Rodney Brown and Cathair Friel who both returned to the club for a second spell. Brown joined the club after spending time with Crusaders with Friel making the switch from derby rivals Ballymena United. There would also be a change to the backroom staff as Steven Douglas joined the coaching team after retiring as a player.
The Bannsiders would kick-start their preparations with pre-season friendlies against Limavady United, Portstewart, Glentoran and Larne in the month of June. The first would be against Limavady as Matthew Shevlin netted five times in a 6-1 win, before Stewart Nixon and Ben Doherty netted after the break in a 2-0 success against Portstewart.
Due to ground improvements, the Stripes would be on their travels for their entire pre-season schedule and their next assignment would be away to Glentoran as both clubs prepared for Europa Conference League commitments. A first-half goal from Rhys Marshall was enough to separate the two sides, with Coleraine being triumphant against Larne three days later as Curtis Allen and Eoin Bradley netted either side of David McDaid’s equaliser.
July would see Coleraine compete against Bosnian side FK Velez Mostar in the inaugural edition of the Conference League. Oran Kearney’s men travelled to eastern Europe for the first leg and stunned the hosts within the first ten minutes as Ben Doherty’s strike from distance sailed into the bottom corner. However, the hosts’ pressure would finally pay off on 35 minutes as Aaron Traynor was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box. The ball was picked up by Brandao de Souza who calmly rolled his strike into the bottom corner. On 65 minutes, Coleraine would suffer a major blow as full-back Kane cleared a goal bound effort with his hand resulting in a second spot kick for the Bosnian side. The defender also received his marching orders with Brandao comfortably converting for a second time.
The return leg would be played seven days later at Mourneview Park with Coleraine coming into the contest with a narrow margin to overturn. The ‘home’ crowd would be jubilant at half-time as the Stripes took the lead when Matthew Shevlin headed home from Jamie Glackin’s cross. That joy would be quickly evaporated after the interval as Brandao would find the bottom corner, with one of Mostar’s substitutes sealing their passage through to the next round as a quick counter attack released Nemanja Andusic at the edge of the area and the midfielder hit a crisp finish into the back of the net.
European dreams would be over for Coleraine as they faced back-to-back Championship sides in pre-season action at The University. The two games would have contrasting results for the Bannsiders as they were beaten 2-0 by Annagh United, before running out 5-0 victors against Dergview. The Stripes would seal that success through efforts from Cathair Friel, James McLaughlin and a brace from Matthew Shevlin, with Conor McKendry also netting on his debut after he joined the club from Larne in a move that saw Ben Doherty move in the opposite direction.