Stephen Lowry earns Coleraine a valuable point
Coleraine hardened their challenge for automatic European qualification by plundering a priceless point against Glentoran at the Oval.
Oran Kearney’s boys remain in pole position to finished runner-up to Linfield – although it took a last minute equaliser from Stephen Lowry to salvage the situation in East Belfast.
Ruaidhri Donnelly looked to have won it for the Glens, scoring with only 12 minutes left. But gutsy Coleraine came battling back with Lowry firing home with 90 seconds remaining.
It was the third time teams had met in the last month – the previous two finished in stalemate, so it was no surprise this game finished with a similar outcome.
The Bannsiders could well have sneaked into the lead after only five minutes when Ben Doherty’s corner kick was met by the head of Stevie O’Donnell, but his effort crashed off the top of the crossbar.
Eoin Bradley then blasted a 30-yard free just wide of the target after Seanan Clucas had hauled down the industrious Doherty.
But Glentoran gradually got to grips of the game and, after 20 minutes, Coleraine goalkeeper Marty Gallagher was forced to punch clear a shot from Gael Bigirimana following a clever short corner routine with Andrew Mitchell.
The Glens went close again. Clucas was taken down by Aaron Jarvis and when Mitchell whipped in the free kick, Robbie McDaid’s diving header fizzed wide.
Both teams then went for the jugular. Doherty tried his luck with audacious shot from distance that Glentoran goalkeeper Rory Brown smothered before home defender Paddy McClean floated in a free kick at the other end that was met by the head of McDaid, whose effort blazed over the top.
Just before the break, the Glens had another chance to break the deadlock when Bigirimana’s free kick was cleverly flicked on by Mitchell to Jay Donnelly, who swiveled and turned only to see his shot inch past the post.
There was still time for the Bannsiders to winkle out another opportunity. Jarvis tried his luck from distance which cannoned off the head of McCullough, who was fortunate to see the ball ricochet wide.
It was the visitors who asked the early questions after the break with Bradley muscling Bigirimana off the ball before finding Doherty, who shot into the side netting.
Glentoran defender Rhys Marshall then took off on a piercing solo run through the heart of the Coleraine defence and his shot from the edge of the box looked destined for the net, only for the ball to curl just wide.
But the Glens at last forged in front with 12 minutes remaining. Substitute Dale Gorman’s free kick was met by Donnelly and his header crept in at the base of the post.
It could have been even better for the Glens only for Gorman’s thunderbolt of a free kick to crash off the crossbar.
But with the clock ticking down, the ball fell to Lowry on the edge the box and his shot appeared to cannon off McClean before nestling in the net.
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