European Play-Off: Final

Crusaders 3 - 2 Coleraine
06 May 2024 - 15:00Seaview

COLERAINE had their dreams of playing European football snatched away at the death as Jordan Owens scored a last minute winner for Crusaders in a five-goal ding-dong at Seaview…

By: Charlie Cooke

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney named the same starting eleven for the clash from Wednesday night’s semi-final against Glentoran, with Conor McKendry available as an option off the bench.

The Bannsiders would make a blistering start as they took the lead with just five minutes on the clock. Jamie McGonigle received the ball after a clever header by Matthew Shevlin and expertly found the bottom corner.

Both teams would have chances thereafter as Jarlath O’Rourke headed over and Ben Kennedy hit off target for the Crues, whilst Josh Carson sent a free-kick over the crossbar at the other end.

However, two goals in as many minutes would turn the game on its head as Crusaders forged ahead.

The first arrived on 36 minutes as O’Rourke latched onto Heatley’s through ball and his first-time effort found the bottom corner. Soon after, Coleraine failed to clear their lines from a set-piece resulting in Daniel Larmour’s deflected effort ending up in the back of the net.

The chances would keep arriving at Seaview as Heatley fired over for the hosts on the counter attack, whilst Shevlin blazed over and Graham Kelly made a heroic block to deny Crusaders striker Adam Lecky.

On the hour mark, Coleraine thought they had levelled the tie as a great ball over the top by Dean Jarvis found McGonigle. The Dungiven native took a great first touch to take the ball around Tuffey but he could only hit the side netting from an acute angle.

But Coleraine would draw level on 71 minutes and in spectacular circumstances. The ball was played into the path of Carson from 30 yards out and the midfielder struck an unstoppable effort into the back of the net.

Coleraine would have Rory Brown to thanks as he made two excellent saves to prevent Ross Clarke and Lecky from finding the net, whilst Conor McKendry’s shot had to be parried around the post by Crues stopper Tuffey.

After McKendry would miss a big chance on 89 minutes by dragging an effort wide, Crusaders would produce a late sting in the tale to earn the win. A corner-kick wasn’t cleared by Coleraine allowing Jordan Forsythe’s strike to find the net via a touch from Jordan Owens.

A sore one for Coleraine to take who undoubtedly deserved to take the tie to extra-time.

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Weir, Lowry, Kennedy (Winchester ’43) [Owens ’84 mins], Lecky, Forsythe, O’Rourke, Larmour, Heatley (Nixon ’77 mins), Clarke, Barr.

Subs Not Used: Williamson (GK), Joshua, Boyd, James.

COLERAINE: Brown, Kane, D. Jarvis (Lowry ’79 mins), Kelly, Shevlin, Carson, O’Donnell, Glackin, J. Scott (McKendry ’46 mins), McGonigle, A. Scott

Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), McDaid, Lynch, Cole, Gaston.

Referee: Tony Clarke