Europa Conference League Play-Off: Semi-Final

Larne 2 - 0 Coleraine
10 May 2022 - 19:45Inver Park

COLERAINE’s hopes of securing European football for 2022/23 were ended as they were beaten 2-0 by Larne at Inver Park…

The Bannsiders, who have fond memories of playing on the continent in recent years, exited at the semi-final stage of the play-offs as a goal in each half was enough to send the hosts through to the final against Glentoran.

Larne ended the regulation season strongly by winning two and drawing three of the post-split games and they carried that momentum into the contest as Lee Bonis fired over the bar from Tomas Cosgrove’s cut back.

However, Tiernan Lynch’s side would make the breakthrough on 12 minutes in fortunate circumstances. A corner kick into the box was headed on by Kofi Balmer, and whilst his attempt looked to be going wide, the ball took a deflection off Rodney Brown and into the net.

That goal gave Larne a real lift and they went inches away from doubling their lead ten minutes later. A powerful drive by Lee Lynch was parried by Gallagher and Mark Randall’s rebound attempt looked goal bound but Stephen O’Donnell was there to block the shot for a corner kick.

After having already netted from a corner, it was nearly two from two as Randall’s delivery met Cosgrove at the back post. The defender managed to get a meaningful connection on the ball that was sent goal bound but Lyndon Kane hacked the ball clear from the goal line.

In truth, Coleraine failed to register a real attempt on goal in the opening 45 minutes with Larne going close yet again before the half-time whistle. A through ball allowed Ben Doherty to break the offside trap but the ex-Coleraine man would be thwarted by Gallagher.

Just seven minutes after the restart, the home support would be left feeling frustrated yet again as Larne spurned a great chance to double their lead. A pass by Bonis inside the area allowed David McDaid a clear sight of goal but his tame strike was held by the busy Gallagher.

Coleraine managed to stay in the game and after the introduction of Matthew Shevlin and Aaron Jarvis, they looked more threatening and started to cause problems. On 56 minutes, neat footwork by Patrick Kelly released Jamie Glackin in space with the midfielder’s drive being held by Rohan Ferguson.

However, with just over ten minutes to go, the Bannsiders would see a big chance come and go. A flick on by Eoin Bradley released Stephen Lowry inside the box, and after the Limavady man mustered some space, he could only drag an effort wide of the near post.

With six minutes additional time signalled, the Stripes would have one final chance as hesitance in the Larne box resulted in the ball landing at the feet of Curtis Allen, but the substitute failed to find the target as he could only stab the ball wide.

As Coleraine pushed everyone forward, they would be punished with virtually the last kick of the ball as Andy Scott was sent clean through on goal and he had the vision to pick out Randall who tapped the ball into an empty net.

LARNE: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly, Sule, Randall, McDaid (Scott ’67 mins), Doherty (Mitchell ’85 mins), Lynch (Jarvis ’85 mins), Bolger, Bonis, Cosgrove.

Subs Not Used: Devlin (GK), Herron, Hale, Lusty.

COLERAINE: Gallagher, Kane, Mullan (Allen ’86 mins), Brown (Jarvis ’53 mins), Lowry, McLaughlin (Shevlin ’53 mins), Bradley, Carson, O’Donnell, Glackin, Kelly (Wilson ’78 mins)

Subs Not Used: Henderson (GK), K. McLaughlin, Tosh.

Referee: Ross Dunlop