COLERAINE U16’s and 18’s faced Cliftonville in the latest round of matches in the NIFL Academy League…
NIFL Academy U16
Cliftonville 3-1 Coleraine
A bright and breezy Saturday morning saw the young Bannsiders make an early trip down to Jordanstown to face a strong Cliftonville team, with Coleraine travelling in confident mood on the back of three consecutive wins.
The game kicked off and Cliftonville had a clear game plan to sit off and play on the counter, with McIntyre, Smith and Gault evading any pressure from the Reds’ front two but faced a wall of opposition players. Kyle and Armstrong found it difficult to get any rhythm and Coleraine were caught cheap in possession, Devine and Martin had limited options due to the stubbornness of the Cliftonville defence.
Smyth did well to put pressure on opposing back line and was backed up well by Kirk who was causing havoc on the left wing. A free kick from the the Reds left saw a lofted ball bounce in the box and was knocked beyond the helpless Donnelly by Devine for an unfortunate own goal to make it 1-0 to Cliftonville.
Having a half to forget, Coleraine rallied and set out to respond as Moore returning from Covid issues replaced Martin and McToal came on for Olphert. Immediately Moore influenced the game by being creative, expressive and leading the charge to break down a resilient Cliftonville defence.
Moffat replaced Devine, and after a good passage of play, Coleraine were awarded a set piece in a similar position to their opponents. A good delivery saw the ball bounce free and it was dispatched well by Smyth to make the scores level.
The equaliser seemed to galvanise both sets of players. The game was opening up more and more as time went on, however a good passage of play saw the hosts retake the lead after a strike caught Donnelly off guard to make it 2-1 to Cliftonville.
Kyle and Armstrong began to battle but Cliftonville maintained the momentum swing, a late counter saw Smith make a last ditch tackle, but catching more of the man than ball resulting in a penalty which was dispatched for 3-1.
A first loss but a lesson for the young Bannsiders.
A day to reflect, and the Coleraine U16’s will look to react against Ballymena next Saturday.
SQUAD: Donnelly, Smith, McIntyre, Gault, Kirk, Olphert, Kyle, Armstrong, Martin, Devine, Smyth, Moffat, McToal, Moore, KC.
NIFL Academy U18
Coleraine 3-3 Cliftonville
Coleraine welcomed league leaders Cliftonville to Rugby Avenue in what turned out to be a high scoring entertaining affair. Both teams looking to protect their unbeaten starts to the season.
Both teams started well, passing the ball and trying to impose themselves. Two defensive lapses allowed Cliftonville to score two quick goals midway through the half. The first was from a free kick and the other from the penalty spot which was comfortably dispatched from 12 yards.
Coleraine responded and tried hard to get back in the game and with eight minutes to half time Stewart finished well for his second of the season. The young Bannsiders pushed on from here and got level on the stroke of half time when McLaughlin rounded the goalkeeper and tapped home.
Coleraine started the second half well and came close to taking the lead on a few occasions as they pinned Cliftonville back. The third goal did arrive when McLaughlin scored his second of the evening with a smart finish from a tight angle. However, the lead didn’t last long as a few minutes later, Cliftonville equalised when a great delivery evaded everyone and dropped in at the back post.
Both teams went at it in the final 15 minutes in order to find the winner. Coleraine came very close on two occasions when a Elliot strike from 25 yards look set for the top corner only for a great save from the visiting keeper. A few minutes later, Campbell looked to have secured all three points when he got on the end of a great Kelly cross only for his effort to be hooked off the line.
A great game with two committed teams finished all square.
Coleraine could maybe find themselves a little unlucky not to collect all three points after a dominant second half display.
SQUAD: Shiels, Dealey, McBride, Campbell, Callaghan, Keogh, Moffat, Stewart, McAlesse, McLaughlin, Cullen, Kelly, Greer, Mackay, Curran, Elliot.