FOOTBALL: Cup dream ends

COLERAINE'S hopes of making it to another Co-Operative Insurance Cup final were dashed at Shamrock Park on Tuesday night.

Last year's beaten finalists failed to reproduce the form which saw them defeat Cliftonville and Glentoran in the last two games, leaving David Platt disappointed at the end.

"It's obviously not the result we wanted," said Platt after the game.

"I felt we contained Portadown well for the first hour without playing particularly well. At half time, the consensus was that we still had a couple of gears to go up and we felt we could stretch Portadown and look to exploit a couple of potential weaknesses.

"But aside from the last 10-15 minutes when we created a few chances, we didn't do that. On the night I don't think there was much between the two teams in terms of performance.

Platt pointed to the loss of defender Howard Beverland as a major turning point in the game. The Ballymoney man had to leave the action following a clash just before the break, which left him requiring seven stitches in a facial wound.

"I think a big turning point for us was Howard Beverland having to go off before the break. Howard had settled back into the team and was playing very well up until then.

"The pitch didn't help the quality of the game in any way either. Parts of it were very soft and others, particularly the corner near where our fans were situated and right across the goalmouth, were still partially frozen underfoot.

"The conditions didn't allow for much football and it's particularly disappointing that both goals came down to mistakes.

"We should have cut out the ball in the build up to the opener, but it bobbled free and Sean Mackle has hit a shot from 25-30 yards.

"It's a great shot but one he shouldn't have been able to get away in the first place.

"The second started with a needless free kick being given away, then from the cross, Braniff's shot is going well wide until Mouncey gets his head on it.

"We had chances of our own, had Darren Boyce scored, or left it to Stephen Lowry who was arguably in a better position behind him to score, then with 15 minutes left we were right back in the game.

"There were times when the ball bobbled away just as we were about to shoot and they put in good blocks. "Overall though I can't have too many complaints about the result."

The hosts started the brighter of the two teams with Davy O'Hare having to go full length to beat out a 25-yard free kick from Kevin Braniff, and a pile driver from Shane McCabe blocked by the Bannsiders' defence.

Coleraine's first sortie came on 15 minutes when a defensive mistake let in Leon Knight, but keeper Neil Armstrong was more than equal to his hard, low shot.

Coleraine almost raced ahead when a high cross from Johnny Harkness clipped Portadown's crossbar on 34 minutes.

A touch of brilliance on 49 minutes by Ports fullback Philip Craig almost produced an opener when he raced through and bent one towards the top corner. But O'Hare somehow got a fingertip to the effort and turned it round the post.

Portadown went ahead on the hour with a real screamer from midfielder Mackle. He ran onto a pass from Braniff and smashed it into the top corner from 25 yards.

It was 2-0 on 68 minutes with Mouncey the marksman this time. It started with a free kick from Ross Redman on the left, Braniff hammered the ball back into the danger area and it fell perfectly for Mouncey to head home from close range.