Coleraine 1– 2 Cliftonville
SAM Ashford struck 12 minutes from time as Cliftonville bounced back from defeat to Linfield last weekend with a hard fought 2-1 win over Coleraine at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
Ace marksman Ben Wilson fired his side ahead before the hour-mark, but Conor McKendry smashed home a leveller midway through the second half.
The winner arrived through substitute Ashford within three minutes of his introduction from the bench and it proved enough in the end, despite Josh Carson rattling the bar with a free kick in the 90th minute.
Reds’ boss Jim Magilton felt that the victory was massive and expected the response that the Bannsiders delivered in a dominant first half showing.
“It was a massive win, and it was very difficult today,” he acknowledged.
“We knew there was going to be a bounce from last week from Coleraine. Gerard [Lyttle] and I were at the game and watched them. To lose to your local rivals is a bitter pill to swallow.
“We knew there would be an intensity in their play, and they didn’t disappoint us, especially in the first half. Since I have come in, it is probably as poor as we’ve played in terms of the ball. In terms of our passing and in terms of creating opportunities, we didn’t really do that, and half time couldn’t come quick enough for us.”
Sean Stewart was due to return to the starting line-up in place of Reece Jordan, but after picking up a knock in the warm-up Jordan retained his place in the starting line-up and Conor Pepper was promoted to the bench.
Coleraine were first to threaten when Conor McKendry’s dipping volley clipped the bar on its way over.
Ronan Doherty played a corner short and curled the ball beyond the far post in what was the visitors first half chance.
The Bannsiders tried their luck from distance twice within a few minutes, first Conor McKendry let fly and David Odumosu was forced to turn it behind. Then Jamie Glackin arrowed a low effort that whistled past the post.
It took Cliftonville until the 27th minute before they had their first effort on target. Joe Gormley turned on the edge of the box and his shot failed to call Gareth Deane into action.
The hosts' build-up was neat on the eye, but they lacked creativity in the final third. Andrew Scott attempted to thread a pass into the feet of Dean Jarvis, but Jonny Addis shepherded the ball behind for a goal kick.
Shea Kearney led a counterattack which was the visitors most promising attack of the half, despite almost being taken out, the right-back managed to find the run of Joe Gormley whose attempted cut-back was sent behind by Lyndon Kane, though nothing came from the resulting corner.
Just before the break Jamie Glackin played a one-two with Jake Wallace and his effort was turned behind by David Odumosu as the half ended scoreless.
Coleraine continued to probe for the breakthrough, though Jamie Glackin failed to find the run of David McDaid in the area.
The deadlock was broken in the 57th minute and came 60 seconds after Jim Magilton made a treble change.
None of those players were involved though as Shea Kearney sent in a magnificent cross that Ben Wilson met and finished high into the roof of the net past Gareth Deane for his 15th goal in all competitions.
The home side responded positively from their set-back as Dean Jarvis flashed in a low cross that McDaid couldn’t touch home.
McKendry shot straight down the throat of Odumosu but 60 seconds later, the midfielder made no mistake, taking a pass from Josh Carson and lashing in via the underside of the bar to level in the 68th minute.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Coleraine almost forged ahead when Jamie Glackin found McDaid and he turn rolled a pass to Andrew Scott, but Odumosu easily collected the low effort.
It was a chance they would come to rue as Cliftonville regained the lead 12 minutes from time. Substitute Stephen Mallon showed neat footwork and laid the ball off to fellow substitute Sam Ashford to slide home for his second of the campaign and crucially restore his side’s advantage in the process.
Jamie Glackin almost found an immediate equaliser from McDaid’s pass, but he tried to place his shot and could only fire wide of the target.
The Bannsiders best chance to draw level came in the 90th minute after Jonny Addis chopped down Conor McKendry on the edge of the area.
Josh Carson took responsibility and lifted his free-kick over the wall but off the bar and Cliftonville managed to temporarily clear their lines.
They would have another opportunity in the last of three minutes added, this time David McDaid put too much height on his angled set piece and Cliftonville held on for all three points, which took them back into second place in the table.
COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, D Jarvis, Kelly, McKendry, McDaid, Carson, Farren, Glackin, Wallace, Scott (Mitchell 81’).
CLIFTONVILLE: Odumosu, Kearney, Addis, Casey, Turner, Jordan (Lowe 56’), Gallagher, Doherty, Rory Hale (Mallon 56’), Wilson (Ashford 75’), Gormley (Ronan Hale 56’).
REFEREE: Tim Marshall