OK hopes players can seize opportunity
COLERAINE aim to make it back-to-back successes in the BetMcLean League Cup as they face Cliftonville at Windsor Park tomorrow afternoon (KO 3pm)…
BetMcLean League Cup Final
The Bannsiders come into the fixture after losing out to Crusaders last Tuesday night as a single goal by Philip Lowry was the difference at Seaview. That result sees Oran Kearney’s men remain in 6th spot in the table with three games remaining until the league split. The Stripes – who won the League Cup back in 2020 – have beat Bangor, Carrick Rangers, Glentoran and Warrenpoint Town en route to the final.
Cliftonville continue their push for glory on all three fronts as they sealed a 1-0 victory against Glentoran at The Oval on Tuesday night. A goal from Rory Hale means the Reds are third in the table and they also have an Irish Cup semi-final against Crusaders on the horizon. Paddy McLaughlin’s side are five times winners of the competition and have beaten H&W Welders, Ards, Portadown and Ballymena United in their run to the final.
This will be the fifth meeting between the clubs – with Cliftonville winning the first back in August. After a goalless first-half, Coleraine almost carved out the opener as Eoin Bradley and Matthew Shevlin went close. However, the deadlock would be broken at the other end as Joe Gormley latched onto Jamie McDonagh’s superb delivery, before the win was secured two minutes later as Stephen O’Donnell scored an unfortunate own goal. The Stripes did manage to pull a goal back through Aaron Traynor but left North Belfast empty handed.
In November, the Reds would be the visitors to The Showgrounds in front of a bumper crowd on the North Coast. Once again, the first-half would end goalless despite both teams getting into dangerous positions. The game would spur into life with half an hour remaining as Eoin Bradley was introduced from the bench and he almost made a dramatic impact within sixty seconds when Josh Carson played him in and the striker’s dink over McNicholas bounced off the crossbar. At the other end, Cliftonville then had a great chance to break the deadlock. Gareth Deane signed a new contract on Friday and proved his worth on 78 minutes with a superb point blank save to keep out Johnny Addis after he had first hit the post. That proved to be the last meaningful action as a hard fought encounter ended scoreless.
Last month, Cliftonville would host Coleraine for the third time in league duty with the first-half being a cagey affair and no goals being scored. However, fans wouldn’t have to wait long for the opening goal to arrive after the break as Ryan Curran swept home on 48 minutes, before the same player doubled his tally just five minutes later as he was in the right place at the right time to fire into the net from Ronan Doherty’s cut back. The Stripes tried to get their way back into the contest with Stephen Lowry’s header crashing off the post.
Little more than a week ago, Coleraine would be the visitors to Solitude in the quarter-final of the Samuel Gelston’s Whiskey Irish Cup and the Bannsiders would hold the half-time lead as Patrick Kelly and Lyndon Kane played a neat one-two which allowed the full-back to find the back of the net. The second-half would see Cliftonville turn the game on its head as Joe Gormley equalised from Jamie McDonagh’s cross, before McDonagh would have the final say as his strike from distance settled the contest. The Stripes would see a strong penalty appeal turned away, and despite late pressure, they couldn’t send the game into extra-time.
“Any piece of silverware is great and particularly the way the landscape of our league has changed over the last couple of years getting to cup finals is even tougher,” admitted Oran.
“It’s a massive credit to two part-time teams to have made it to this stage but these opportunities don’t come around too often.
“We waited a long time to get to our first cup final. We’ve had a few cup finals since then but you don’t know when the next one will come round either so it’s so important that you take these opportunities when they’re there.
“Another cup final win would be just reward for this group of players. You’ve got the stalwarts – Lyndon, Josh, Stephen Lowry, Stephen O’Donnell – big part of that and are ultra deserving.
“I appreciate that you don’t always get what you deserve in football but they – along with the new ones who have come in and carried that can – have been brilliant as well and a win on Sunday would be fitting reward for them.
“Fans have a huge part to play.
“I remember the last League Cup final – we didn’t start particularly well and we conceded early.
“To be fair, our fans were huge in number but also huge in voice and particularly in a stadium like Windsor that’s vitally important.
“The Irish Cup final in 2018 was exactly the same
“We talk about it being the 12th man every week but on days like this it’s magnified ten-fold.”
The match referee will be Andrew Davey.
The assistant referees are Ryan Kelsey and Gareth Eakin.
Tony Clarke has been allocated as the fourth official.
Coleraine supporters will require tickets to enter the ground which can be bought HERE.
An afterparty will be taking place at the Social Club following conclusion of the game, with tickets available from the Club Shop which is open from 11am to 1pm tomorrow.
The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Football channel, with coverage starting at 2:30pm.
If you are not feeling yourself tomorrow afternoon and you have symptoms which you feel are similar to COVID-19, please stay away from the stadium and think of others.
If you have access to a lateral flow/PCR test at home, we would encourage you to check yourself before coming to the game.
If you have been in contact with a positive case and haven’t yet been contacted by track and trace, please do not come to the game.
As ever, those unable to watch the fixture can follow the latest developments via the club’s official Twitter account (@ColeraineFC).