Semi final defeat is ‘Ard to take

Coleraine's James McLaughlin scores the opening goal against Ards
Coleraine's James McLaughlin scores the opening goal against Ards

Coleraine crashed out of the JBE League Cup last night as they were beaten on penalties by Ards in the semi final.

The Bannsiders seemed to be in complete control as they stormed into a 2-0 lead at the start of the second half thanks to James McLaughlin.

But a brace from Danny McKee brought the Championship One leaders back on level terms and took the game into extra time.

Neither side could find another goal so it was on to the dreaded penalties.

It was McLaughlin who was the unlucky man as his spot kick cannoned off the post. Ards converted all their penalties to seal a final meeting with Cliftonville.

Coleraine took the lead in bizarre circumstances, in the 18th minute. James McLaughlin collected the ball inside the Ards half after Tommy Lambe lost his footing. The striker hit a speculative effort from nearly 30-yards.

With the wind at his back, McLaughlin’s shot took an unusual bounce off the 3G surface and skipped over the head of goalkeeper Ryan Brown. The in-form centre-forward got his reward for his audacity.

The Red & Blues hoped the wind would help them in the second half, but it was Coleraine who took grabbed the half by the neck. In the 50th minute, Garth Falconer fed the ball into Darren McCauley, who cut the ball across the face of goal, where James McLaughlin kept his composure to slip the ball home from less than 10-yards.

Ards reduced the deficit in the 66th minute. David McAllister skipped down the left-flank before producing a fine sweeping cross towards the near-post. Substitute Danny McKee lost his marker, before guiding a six-yard header past Michael Doherty.

Niall Currie’s men kept up the pressure, finally getting their reward in the 84th minute.

Another fine Craig McMillen corner-kick was aimed towards Denver Gage, with a clearing header only reaching the edge of the area. Danny McKee reacted quickly, sending a looping 15-yard head beyond the reach of Doherty.

The large Coleraine support at the Clandeboye Road end screamed for a red card when goalkeeper Ryan Brown fouled James McLaughlin outside the area on the left-flank, but referee Kennedy opted for a yellow card. From the resulting set-piece, Brown saved Ruari Higgins 20-yard effort.

After a scoreless period of extra time, the game went to a shoot-out.

James Cully, Tommy Lambe and Gary Dorrian scored for Ards, while Sammy Morrow and Ruaidhri Higgins converted for Coleraine before James McLaughlin missed.

McLaughlin slipped in his run-up, before striking the post. Rory Carson and Lydon Kane exchanged goals, while McKee stroked home the winner to set-up a repeat of 1995 League Cup final between Ards and Cliftonville.