Alexander Gawne grabs the glory as Coleraine edge past Cliftonville

Lyndon Kane celebrates with Alexander Gawne following the game's only goal as Coleraine defeated Cliftonville. Pic by Pacemaker.
Lyndon Kane celebrates with Alexander Gawne following the game's only goal as Coleraine defeated Cliftonville. Pic by Pacemaker.

Coleraine moved to within two points of Danske Bank Premiership leadedrs Crusaders following their hard-fought win over Cliftonville.

Teenage striker Alexander Gawne was the Bannsiders hero as he came off the bench to fire home a spectacular winner on 72 minutes.

It certainly was not a classic in front of the Sky Sports cameras at The Showgrounds, but Gawne’s strike will live long in the memory.

It was another blow for Cliftonville’s title aspirations though as it was a third league defeat in a row for them.

The hosts made a bright start to the game and carved out the first opportunity with four minutes on the clock.

Jamie Glackin whipped a good ball in from the right-hand side, but James McLaughlin failed to direct his header on target.

The visitors’ first real foray into the Bannsiders’ half on 11 minutes almost led to the opening goal as Conor McDermott exchanged passes with Ruiadhri Donnelly before testing Chris Johns with a dipping volley from 20 yards.

The keeper did well to tip it over and he had to be alert from the resulting corner after a bit of pinball in the six-yard box.

Sixty seconds later Richard Brush was almost caught out at the other end as Matthew Fitzpatrick beat him to Ben Doherty’s deep cross, but his looping header dropped on to the roof of the net.

Conor McMenamin, who scored the Cliftonville winner when the two sides last met at Solitude back in December, fizzed a shot wide of the far post on 19 minutes.

The Bannsiders suffered a blow 10 minutes before the break when their top scorer, Ben Doherty, was forced off with what looked like a hamstring strain.

Some neat build-up play by the Reds seven minutes into the second half created an opening for Donnelly on the edge of the box, but Johns made a comfortable save to deny him.

Back came Coleraine with substitute Ian Parkhill almost giving his side the lead on 54 minutes, but his cross-cum-shot drifted wide of the far post with Brush beaten.

The Ballymoney tried his luck again three minutes later, but the Reds stopper saved well this time.

And he went close again midway through the second half as he glanced an Aaron Traynor cross past the post.

The game was then lit up with 18 minutes to go as substitute Gawne picked up the ball on the right-hand side.

He whipped the ball in towards goal, beating Brush and dipping in below the crossbar to give the Bannsiders the lead.

Cliftonville ramped up the pressure in the closing stages in a bid to try and rescue something from the game.

McDermott had a low free kick well-saved by Johns on 82 minutes.

Try as they might though the Reds were finding it hard to break down a resolute Coleraine defence with Aaron Canning and Adam Mullan superb at the heart of it.

Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Canning, Mullan, Doherty (Parkhill, 34), Lowry, Glackin, Carson (O’Donnell, 75), McLaughlin, Fitzpatrick (Gawne, 62).

Subs (not used): Gallagher, Douglas, Nevin, Brennan.
Cliftonville: Brush, McDermott, Ives, Harney, R.Donnelly, McCrudden (Maguire, 73), Bagnall (Harkin, 83), Doherty, Gormley, McMenamin (Curran, 62), A.Donnelly.

Subs (not used): Dunne, Foster, Rocks, McCurry.
Referee: Tim Marshall.