AN early header from Jordan Owens would prove to be the difference as Coleraine lost at home for the first time this season…
After a quiet opening 18 minutes, which saw both teams have a player booked, the visitors took the lead as a superb cross from Jordan Forsythe met Jordan Owens at the back post and the big striker made no mistake from close range.
The Bannsiders almost found an instant equaliser in fortuitous circumstances as a cross into the box was deflected off Billy Joe Burns and it struck the post. Then, a minute later, Coleraine would threaten again as James McLaughlin’s acrobatic effort forced Gerard Doherty into a smart save.
Former Coleraine striker Jamie McGonigle should have grabbed a second for Stephen Baxter’s men as he latched onto a through ball, out ran Gareth McConaghie, but he was denied by former team-mate Chris Johns.
The windy conditions would prove to play a part in the next chance of the game as Ben Doherty misjudged the flight of the ball and the dangerous David Cushley would be thwarted by Johns.
Just after the hour mark, Ben Doherty – who was returning from a hamstring injury – would have a go from distance and his strike whistled by the post.
Crusaders were looking to threaten on the counter attack with the pace of McGonigle and Heatley and the two combined on 41 minutes as the latter was thwarted by Johns.
Just before the half-time whistle, Crusaders should have extended their advantage as a miscommunication between Aaron Traynor and McConaghie allowed Owens through on goal, but the marksman failed to find the target.
The home side would make a strong start to the second-half and almost grabbed an equaliser on 49 minutes as a deep cross from Traynor was met by Carson at the back post, but the former Northern Ireland international failed to find the target. Minutes later, ex-Crusaders winger Glackin went on a mazy run inside the area but he could only fire over when well placed.
The siege on the Crusaders goal showed no sign of letting up as Carson was next to have a go with his driven effort but his strike deflected off Philip Lowry and went inches over the crossbar. From the resulting corner kick, no Coleraine player could get a vital touch that would have surely resulted in a goal.
There would be further frustration on 61 minutes as Doherty’s corner kick was met by McLaughlin who had a header cleared off the line by Jarlath O’Rourke. On 69 minutes, a cross into the box met Stephen Lowry but he could only nod wide.
Crusaders – who had been penned in their own half for the first 25 minutes of the second-half – nearly scored a second as a mistake from Coleraine substitute Stephen O’Donnell allowed Paul Heatley through on goal but he was denied by Johns.
Coleraine would hand a debut to Matthew Fitzpatrick off the bench and introduce the lively Alexander Gawne, with both having an immediate impact as Carson had a goal bound effort blocked.
The visitors were beginning to take the sting out of the game and nearly put the icing on all three points towards the end as Paul McElroy fired wide when well positioned inside the box.
A defeat for the hosts who now move down to fourth spot in the table.
COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Canning (O’Donnell ’54 mins), Doherty (Gawne ’70 mins), Lowry, McLaughlin (Fitzpatrick ’70 mins), Bradley, Carson, McConaghie, Glackin, Traynor.
Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Douglas, Parkhill, McGuckin.
CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns, Lowry, McGonigle (McElroy ’83 mins), Cushley (Thompson ’67 mins), Caddell, Forsythe, O’Rourke, Owens, Brown, Heatley.
Subs Not Used: O’Neill (GK), Hegarty, Beverland, Ruddy, McGinley.
Referee: Ian McNabb