COLERAINE’S slow start would be punished as they were beaten by Crusaders at The Showgrounds…
A change in personnel saw four players drafted into the starting line-up but the Bannsiders would fall behind after just 47 seconds when a poor defensive header was seized upon by McCauley Snelgrove who blasted an effort into the bottom corner.
To make matters worse, Coleraine would concede a second after 14 minutes on the clock when Adam Lecky burst into the box and cut the ball back for Jude Winchester. The midfielder had the precision to find Philip Lowry inside the area and he picked his spot beyond a helpless Gareth Deane.
Two minutes later, the visitors should have put the game beyond doubt as a cross into the box by Jarlath O’Rourke found Ross Clarke but he fired wide from close range.
The first chance for Coleraine arrived on 21 minutes as neat play between Michael McCrudden, Jamie Glackin and Lee Lynch slipped Conor McDermott through on goal but the defender’s effort rippled the side netting.
After Adam Lecky headed wide for Crusaders, the big striker would play a massive part in setting Lowry up on 28 minutes but this time the in-form midfielder could only blaze into the arms of a grateful Deane.
The Stripes needed a response before the break and it arrived in fortunate circumstances on 39 minutes as corner kick by Lynch was headed towards goal by Stephen O’Donnell, with the ball taking several deflections before finding the back of the net.
Coleraine started the second-half on the front foot and McCrudden saw a goal bound effort deflected for a corner, before Josh Carson’s cross was headed wide by Shevlin on 56 minutes.
The visitors would be camped in their own half for the majority of the second-half but they would go extremely close to extending their lead once again as O’Rourke’s free-kick was headed inches over the crossbar by Lewis Barr.
On 66 minutes, Coleraine would have another opportunity as substitute Evan McLaughlin teed the ball up for Shevlin at the edge of the box but his low drive was parried by Tuffey and cleared to safety.
Oran Kearney brought on James McLaughlin with 15 minutes to go and the striker almost made an instant impact as his half volley forced Tuffey into a low smart save.
As the Stripes pushed forward, they almost suffered a sucker-punch at the other end as Stephen Lowry made a timely intervention to deny Dean Ebbe from getting a clear strike on goal.
COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, D. Jarvis (O’Mahony ’84 mins), Mullan (E. McLaughlin ’54 mins), McCrudden (J. McLaughlin ’75 mins), Carson, O’Donnell, Lynch (Lowry ’54 mins), Glackin, McDermott, Shevlin.
Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), A. Jarvis, Farren.
CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns, Hegarty (Barr ’42 mins), Weir (Thompson ’54 mins), Lowry, Lecky (Owens ’74 mins), O’Rourke, Winchester (Ebbe ’74 mins), Larmour, Snelgrove (McMurray ’54 mins), Clarke.
Subs Not Used: Murphy (GK), Steele.
Referee: Ben McMaster