CRUSADERS 4 COLERAINE 2
David Cushley hit a delicious double at Seaview to help keep Crusaders on title track in the Danske Bank Premiership on Friday night.
Although Stephen Baxter’s Danske Bank Premiership champions were totally outplayed by an impressive Coleraine team in the first half, the Shore Road boys somehow turned the game on its head with a devastating two-goal whammy either side of the interval.
The Crues still have a lot of work to do it they are to retain the Gibson Cup as they still trail Linfield by a whopping nine points, but after consuming that first half pounding, they did display the tenacity, hunger and determination that earned them the title three times in four years.
Colin Coates shot the home team into the lead in first half injury time before Cushley produced his party piece with two glorious strikes – the first a goal of the season contender.
The Bannsiders did eventually pull one back through new signing Dylan King, before Jamie McGonigle slotted home a penalty kick.
But substitute Ronan Hale put the game to bed by hitting a late fourth.
McGonigle should really have given the visitors the lead on 13 minutes when he was sent through the middle by a wonder pass from Jamie Glackin, only to see Sean O’Neill produced a magical save.
Crusaders responded with David Cushley gobbling up a long punt through the middle from O’Neill and, after holding off a challenge from Gareth McConaghie, his shot failed to trouble Chris Johns.
After that, it was all Coleraine. McGonigle whipped in a delicious cross from the left, leaving the usually lethal James McLaughlin with an open goal, but the managed to scoop his effort over the top.
Then on 28 minutes, Ben Doherty’s corner kick fell invitingly for McConaghie, whose header was spectacularly knocked off the line by the alert Rory Hale.
McAree’s boys missed another glorious chance 11 minutes from the interval. Defender Billy Joe Burns’ wayward pass was snapped up by McGonigle, but his racking shot brought another smart save from the busy O’Neill.
After being run ragged for most of the half, the Crues had the audacity to forge into the lead in first half injury. Michael Ruddy’s cross landed on the boot of Coates and his first-time drive arrowed into the bottom corner, well out of the reach of Johns.
Buoyed by that goal, the Crues almost doubled their lead on 51 minutes when Ross Clarke’s corner picked up Coates, but this time his header looped inches over the crossbar.
But the home fans were celebrating again 60 seconds later – and what a strike it was.
Cushley galloped on to a Ruddy pass, and after holder off a challenge from Darren King, he shamed in an astonishing 25-yard drive that flashed into the net, past a bewildered Johns.
And, the struck again just before the hour. This time Burns drilled in a cross from the right and the little striker rose unchallenged to head home.
Coleraine did pull one back on 65 minutes. Defender King reacted quickly to meet a McLaughlin cross and his back-post header ballooned the net.
And the tension heightened when substitute Eoin Bradley went down under a challenge from Coates, resulting in Lee Tavinder awarding a spot kick. McGonigle sent O’Neill the wrong way.
Substitute Ronan Hale then topped a madcap second half by drilling home the fourth, much to the delight of the home fans.
CRUSADERS:O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Lowry, Ward, Cushley, Ruddy, Clarke, McGinley (Snoddy 80), Patterson (Ronen Hale 70l), Rory Hale.
Unused subs: Doherty, McChrystal, Caddell, K Owens, Thompson.
COLERAINE: Johns, Lowry, McLaughlin (Bradley 76), McConaghie, McGonigle, Canning, Doherty, Edgar, Glackin (Burke 76), Shiels (Davidson 67), King.
Unused subs: Doherty, Burns, O’Donnell, Parkhill.
REFEREE: Lee Tavinder.