By Damian Mullan
Riley, Elder, Campbell, Tosh, Heaney, Boyd, Shepherd, Patterson, A. Newton, Hutchinson, Clarke. Subs: McDonald, Walls, McClelland, D. Newton, McFetridge.
O’Hare, McKee, McAuley, Gaston, Black, Beatty, Curran, O’Connor, Armstrong, Johnston, Ferry. Subs: I. Clanachan, McVeigh, R. Neill, McAllister, Spratt, Nicholl.
THE last time Coleraine Crusaders and Coleraine met, way back in 1956, a star-studded Crues team ran out easy 8-0 winners.
On Saturday, the roles were reversed as Coleraine ran up nine goals in a facile 9-1 win over their Ballymena Premier League opponents.
The gap in class between the two teams was glaringly obvious as the hosts, Coleraine Crusaders, welcomed Marty Quinn’s men to the official opening of the new-look Anderson Park.
From the moment defender Paul Gaston headed in the game’s opening goal in the fourth minute from a Barry Curran corner the Irish League team dominated, though to their credit Crusaders never stopped trying.
They even levelled matters midway through the first half. A long ball out of defence glanced off the head off centre-back Gareth McAuley into the path of striker Adam Clarke. He calmly approached O’Hare, threw a couple of dummies and despatched the ball into the back of the net.
Parity lasted barely seven minutes before Sean Armstrong edged Coleraine back in front, again from a corner. The Crues defence failed to clear the ball and ‘Army’ turned sharply and volleyed home from around eight yards.
Armstrong was involved in Coleraine’s third goal four minutes later: he challenged keeper Aaron Riley for the ball and when it broke Ciaran O’Connor had the simple task of touching home from around a yard out.
O’Connor made it 4-1 two minutes later volleying home from close in following a super cross from the left by Jonathan Black, on trial with Coleraine after an unsuccessful spell with Spurs.
Quinn rang the changes at half-time, introducing club captain Pat McAllister and a number of the club’s younger players including Iain Clanachan, Kyle McVeigh, Rowan Neill and Peter Spratt.
All impressed in their own way, particularly striker Rowan Neill who scored twice. His first came five minutes after being introduced when he nipped in at the back post to prod home Spratt’s left wing cross.
Not to be outdone, the elder statesman on the team, Pat McAllister, scored the goal of the game two minutes later when he blasted home a right foot shot from 20 yards which fairly whistled past Riley before nestling in the corner of the goal.
Coleraine Crusaders introduced a number of new faces for the final half hour but even the introduction of fresh legs couldn’t prevent Coleraine continuing with their scoring spree.
Rowan Neill scored his second eight minutes from time, and like his first, owed a lot to getting on the end of a good cross, this time from Barry Curran wide on the right.
He could have bagged his hat-trick moments later but his scuffed shot was clinically redirected into the net by Iain Clanachan.
The scoring was completed a minute from time when Barry Johnston controlled a cross before volleying past the helpless Riley in the Crusaders goal.
And the keeper’s miserable afternoon was complete when he received the red card in the dying seconds.