COLERAINE held their nerve from 12 yards to set-up their third successive BetMcLean Cup final…
The Bannsiders made two changes as Josh Carson and Stephen Lowry were handed berths in the heart of the midfield and Coleraine created the first chance of the game as a neat passage of play resulted in Conor McKendry blazing over the bar.
On 14 minutes, Conor McDermott combined with Lyndon Kane and the latter’s cross just missed a vital touch to send the ball goalwards. Less than sixty seconds later, Cliftonville would take the lead as a weak back pass by Kieran Farren was pounced upon by Ronan Hale who scored from an acute angle.
That opener would spark the hosts into life as Ronan Doherty blazed wide from the edge of the box before Gareth Deane was forced to tip Jamie McDonagh’s effort onto the post. Two minutes later, Luke Turner cut the ball back to Chris Gallagher but his strike from 25 yards failed to find the target.
The Reds should have doubled their advantage on the half hour mark as a quick corner kick routine saw McDonagh cross for Rory Hale but the midfielder could only head into the body of a grateful Deane from close range.
The final two opportunities of the first-half would be created by Coleraine as Carson’s thunderous effort was clawed over the bar by Nathan Gartside, with the resulting corner kick seeing Dean Jarvis have a goal bound header cleared off the line by an alert Gallagher.
Oran Kearney made two substitutions at the start of the second-half as Farren and Lowry made way for Lee Lynch and Michael McCrudden, but despite having much of the ball, they couldn’t forge a real golden opportunity as McCrudden struck wide from McKendry’s cross.
On 68 minutes, the Stripes would go within a matter of inches of drawing level as Jamie Glackin’s effort cannoned off the crossbar with Gartside beaten. Paddy McLaughlin’s side barely left their half in the second 45 minutes as Dean Jarvis curled a free-kick wide before McCrudden’s shot inadvertently turned into a shot which forced a corner kick.
However, the Bannsiders got a deserved equaliser on 79 minutes as McCrudden and McDermott combined on the right-hand side and the latter’s cross was steered home by Shevlin for his 15th goal of the campaign to send the game into extra-time.
As extra-time started, Cliftonville would regain the lead after a corner kick wasn’t cleared and this allowed Odhran Casey to fire an unstoppable effort into the back of the net. Despite this setback, Coleraine would carve out the next opportunity as Lynch’s deflected effort forced Gartside into palming the ball away from goal.
Cliftonville would be the next team to smash the upright as a superb touch and strike from Sean Moore hit the outside the post. That reprieve would prove significant as Coleraine drew level yet again on 105 minutes as Lynch’s cross was headed in by Shevlin.
The Stripes would create the two meaningful chances in the second-half of extra-time as Stephen O’Donnell headed in from Lynch’s free-kick, however, the big defender’s celebrations would be cut short due to the linesman’s flag. At the death, McCrudden would see a shot parried with Lynch unable to steer home the rebound as the match would be decided by penalties.
After Lyndon Kane and Ronan Hale would miss their first penalties for both teams, all subsequent eight penalties were dispatched to force sudden death. The Bannsiders would hold the advantage as Dean Jarvis converted which meant Casey had to score but the midfielder’s effort crashed off the crossbar to cue a wild celebration at the end.
A date against Linfield in the final is up next for the Bannsiders on Sunday, March 12 next year.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Addis, Gallagher, Rory Hale (Casey ’72 mins), R. Curran (Gormley ’91 mins), McDonagh (Moore ’79 mins), Lowe, Robinson (Coates ‘119 mins), Doherty, Turner (Ives ‘112 mins), Ronan Hale.
Subs Not Used: Donnelly (GK), C. Curran.
COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, D. Jarvis, McKendry (E. McLaughlin ’76 mins), Lowry (Lynch ’46 mins), Carson, Farren (McCrudden ’46 mins), O’Donnell, O’Mahony (Glackin ’63 mins), McDermott, Shevlin.
Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Brown, A. Jarvis.
Referee: Jamie Robinson