Cliftonville 2–2 Coleraine
Cliftonville squandered a two-goal lead for the second game in succession after Coleraine came from 2-0 down to claim a point in a 2-2 draw at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
Ronan Hale capitalised on a Martin Gallagher error to give the hosts the lead and then Ronan Doherty doubled their advantage from a corner just before the hour-mark.
The Bannsiders hit back through a Matthew Shevlin penalty and their talisman levelled within two minutes as Cliftonville collapsed.
The Reds pushed for the winner and the chances certainly presented themselves, but it eluded them, and they had to settle for a share of the spoils in the end, much to the disappointment of assistant manager Declan O’Hara who admitted that the goals they are conceding at the minute is unacceptable.
“We could have lost it and also could have won it in the end,” he reflected.
“Joe has had two chances and Ronan’s had a chance, but when you’re 2-0 up it feels like a defeat to be quite honest.
"It was the same last Friday night against Carrick, dropped points in the last minute and today we were two up and well in the game. Coleraine changed shape, caused us problems and we didn’t deal with it.
“The goals that we are conceding at the minute is totally, totally not acceptable. From our defence right through to our midfield and our frontmen. it’s down to us as staff to put it right.”
Paddy McLaughlin made two changes to the side that were held to a 3-3 draw at Carrick Rangers the previous Friday evening.
Jonny Addis returned after injury and Jamie McDonagh was handed a starting role, as Jamie Robinson dropped out and Joe Gormley – fresh from signing his contract extension during the week- dropped to the bench.
Rory Hale was first to go close through a piledriver that Martin Gallagher had to help over the bar, but the resulting corner came to nothing.
The deadlock was broken after 10minutes and it was one that Gallagher in the Coleraine goal will want to forget quickly.
Ronan Hale lined up a speculative effort from around 25 yards out that the Bannsiders' shot-stopper should have saved gathered routinely, but he spilled the ball over the line and the table toppers hit the front through Hale’s 20th goal in all competitions.
Midway through the half, Chris Gallagher combined with Kris Lowe and the right-back slipped Rory Hale in, but Gallagher was alert and smothered the midfielders effort.
The closest that Coleraine came to a leveller arrived on the half-hour mark when Conor McDermott found room down the right and provided a cross that Conor McKendry slid in to meet.
McKendry failed to keep his effort down though and at the break Hale’s goal remained the difference between the sides.
Coleraine started the second half brightly but would find themselves 2-0 down after 57 minutes.
Jamie McDonagh released Ronan Hale with a though ball and his driven angled attempt was turned behind by Gallagher.
The goal would arrive directly from the resulting set-piece as Ronan Doherty sent an in-swinging cross all the way to the back post and it dropped into the net for his second goal in as many games.
Their two-goal advantage didn’t last for too long, however, as Coleraine had a lifeline on 63 minutes when Jonny Addis came across and chopped down Matthew Shevlin in the area.
Referee Raymond Crangle immediately pointed to the spot and booked Addis with Shevlin sending Gartside the wrong way to make it 2-1.
Within two minutes parity was restored at Solitude, Jamie Glackin whipped in a cross that both Luke Turner and Matthew Shevlin attacked, and the ball appeared to spin off Shevlin and loop over Gartside to level things up.
Cliftonville pushed for the winner with Gallagher turning away a Gormley effort and then palming Ronan Hale’s shot to safety.
Hale picked out Gormley with a magnificent pass up field, but Gallagher parried the Gormley’s effort with his leg.
That would be the last significant chance as the sides shared the spoils at the conclusion and Cliftonville remain top of the table by a single point ahead of Linfield and Larne.
CLIFTONVILLE: Gartside, Lowe, Addis, Turner, Ives, Gallagher, Doherty (Parkhouse 85’), Rory Hale (Casey 76’), McDonagh (Gormley 71’), Moore, Ronan Hale.
COLERAINE: Gallagher, Kane, Jarvis, Brown, McKendry (Scott 62’), Carson, O’Donnell, Lynch (McCrudden 62’), Glackin, McDermott, Shevlin (Fyfe 80’).
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle