Red alert for Coleraine

Two defeats in space of five days represents poor start for last season's league runners-up

Red alert for Coleraine

Cliftonville striker Joe Gormley celebrates opening the scoring in Tuesday evening's defeat of Coleraine at Solitude.

By Damian Mullan

Reporter:

By Damian Mullan

Email:

sport@thechronicle.uk.com

WHILE not yet a crisis, there are increasingly worrying signs over Coleraine's start to the new Danske Bank Premiership season.

Two games and two defeats for the Showgrounds side leaves them bottom of the fledgling league table.

And while it is still early days, the Bannsiders will not want to lose any more ground on their rivals as the month develops.

Playing their opening five fixtures away from home doesn't help, of course, nor does the fact that they said goodbye to several key players during the summer.

Defender Aaron Canning's absence appears to be a huge loss - the team has conceded six goals in two games - as does that of midfielder Ben Doherty.

Both were an integral part of the club's recent successes and it is obvious that their former colleagues are taking time to adjust to their absence.

Manager Oran Kearney has tinkered with the team's formation against both Larne and Cliftonville, opting for a three man central defence of Rodney Brown, Aaron Jarvis and skipper Stephen O'Donnell, flanked by wing backs Lyndon Kane and Aaron Traynor.

With mixed success.

On Tuesday, Aaron Jarvis was replaced by midfielder Josh Carson after less than half an hour, a tacit admission that the system was failing as Coleraine reverted to a more familiar back four.

The change came in response to a bright opening from the home side for whom Joe Gormley looked back to something approaching his best.

He had the ball in the Coleraine net midway through the opening half following an almighty scramble in the penalty area but was denied a first goal of the season by the assistant's offside flag.

Gormley continued to be a threat, mainly because of the industry and skill of wide man Jamie McDonagh who provided plenty of ammunition for the striker.

Coleraine were restricted to a few half chances at the other end, striker Matthew Shevlin going closest with a volley which whistled over the crossbar ten minutes before the break.

A floodlight failure at half-time meant a 15 minute delay to the start of the second period.

When the teams finally reappeared Coleraine looked a bit brighter, summer signing from Larne, Conor McKendry, firing a free-kick narrowly past a post from the edge of the penalty area.

Eoin Bradley replaced Evan Tweed as Coleraine looked to build on their momentum and the sub' almost fired his side in front minutes later.

McKendry bravely won the ball in an aerial challenge inside the Cliftonville penalty area to present 'Skinner' with the chance to volley goalwards but Levi Ives got back to clear the ball off his goal line and denying a certain goal.

Bradley then screwed a free-kick past the far post after Jamie Glackin had been hacked down on the edge of the box and you got a growing sense that the away side would be made to pay for their profligacy.

And so it proved as the McDonagh-Gormley partnership combined for the game's opening goal ten minutes from the end.

The former Glentoran midfielder found space for the cross from the right and there was Gormley timing his run to perfection to head past Gareth Deane from close range.

Less than two minutes later it was 2-0 and the points were in the bag for Paddy McLaughlin's men.

Again, McDonagh was involved. This time, he showed awareness to nip in behind Aaron Traynor to latch on to a quickly taken free-kick and fizz a low shot across goal.

Coleraine captain Stephen O'Donnell, in attempting to prevent the ball reaching Gormley, stuck out his boot and inadvertently redirected the ball into his own net.

To their credit, Coleraine responded positively and Aaron Traynor headed home his second goal in as many games with three minutes remaining.

There was just time for Rodney Brown to go close with a header in the dying seconds but the hosts held on for the win.

Like in the opening game against Larne, there was little between the two teams at Solitude.

The fact that it took until the 80th minute for the deadlock to be broken reflects the tightness of the contest.

However, that will be of little consolation to Oran Kearney and his players this morning as they look at the league table.

It's clear thar the team is not firing on all cylinders just yet and that they are not a million miles away from where they want to be.

They are conceding sloppy goals and not taking their opportunities at the opposite end.

They also need to get injured players back as soon as possible.

Adam Mullan, Gareth McConaghie, Ian Parkhill, James McLaughlin and Curtis Allen were all missing for various reasons in midweek, a big miss when you're running with a relatively small squad.

CLIFTONVILLE: Dunne, Ives, Harney, C. Curran (c), Hale, R. Curran, McDonagh, Addis, Doherty, Gormley, Callagher.

SUBS: Breen, Foster, McCurry, Casey, Turner, Lowe, Kearns.

COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, Brown, Jarvis, McKendry, Lowry, Tweed, O'Donnll (c), Glackin, Traynor, Shevlin.

SUBS: Gallagher, Bradley, Carson, Wilson, Kelly, Friel.

REFEREE: Steven Gregg.

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Mother and daughter Alice and Annie McGill who played for Coleraine Thirds at the weekend.