Sports Direct Premiership: Matchday 32

Crusaders 1 - 1 Coleraine
16 Mar 2024 - 15:00Seaview

COLERAINE and Crusaders would ultimately pay the penalty as both teams had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Seaview…

The Bannsiders made one change for the contest as Jamie Glackin was absent through suspension, meaning Josh Carson returned to the starting eleven for the first time in over a month.

Crusaders had a bright start in north Belfast as Paul Heatley sent a curling effort over the crossbar, with the winger then denied by a smart block in the box moments later as Robbie Weir – who was later flagged for offside – blazed over the rebound.

The visitors began to settle as Conor McKendry had a shot saved by the legs of Johnny Tuffey, before the ex-Northern Ireland stopper was forced to save Matthew Shevlin’s strike from distance.

On 28 minutes, referee Evan Boyce pointed to the spot as McKendry was adjudged to have been brought down inside the box by Philip Lowry. The resulting penalty was rifled home by Carson for his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.

Before the half-time whistle, the hosts would go close on two occasions to finding an equaliser as Adam Lecky headed wide from a corner, whilst Ben Kennedy’s spectacular overhead kick also was inches off target.

Stephen Baxter’s side – who announced that Declan Caddell would be stepping into the reins next season – suffered a blow at the interval as Heatley had to be withdrawn with a suspected hamstring injury.

His replacement was Jay Boyd, who had a spell on loan at Loughgall at the start of the season, and he would go close from a cross as Rory Brown had to tip his header around the post for a corner.

Soon after, Lecky’s through ball found Kennedy in a good position inside the area and his rasping drive took a flick off Brown and came crashing off the crossbar as Coleraine somehow survived.

However, that survival would only last another two minutes as Crusaders were awarded a penalty as Lyndon Kane was dismissed for bringing down Boyd who was through on goal. A composed Jordan Forsythe would make no mistake from 12 yards to equalise.

The Hatchetman had the ascendancy with the extra man as Billy Joe Burns saw a thunderous attempt being swatted away by Brown, O’Rourke’s shot being saved and Boyd heading wide of the upright.

Despite being camped in for the last 20 minutes of the game, Coleraine went agonisingly close to winning the contest in stoppage time as Jamie McGonigle’s low effort was expertly tipped around the post by Tuffey.

A point for the Bannsiders’ efforts means they know a win against Dungannon Swifts at The Showgrounds next weekend will cement their top six place.

CRUSADERS: Tuffey, Burns, Weir, Lowry, Kennedy, Lecky (Owens ’80 mins), Forysthe, O’Rourke, Larmour, Heatley (Boyd ’45 mins), Clarke.

Subs Not Used: Kerr (GK), Joshua, McAlennan, Donnelly, Barr.

COLERAINE: Brown, Kane, D. Jarvis, Kelly, McKendry (A. Scott ’83 mins), Lowry, Shevlin, Carson, O’Donnell, J. Scott (Lynch ’60 mins), McGonigle.

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

Referee: Evan Boyce