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League Cup

COLERAINE: ROAD TO THE FINAL

11 Mar 2022
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© Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press Conor McKendry celebrates scoring in the semi-finals

With an average of almost four goals per game - and only one conceded - there can be no doubt holders Coleraine have been clinical in their defence of the BetMcLean League Cup.

The Bannsiders got off to a blistering start, hitting no fewer than four goals in the opening half-an-hour away to Bangor.

The game was only 16 minutes old when Cathair Friel took advantage of good work by Ronan Wilson to fire in his first goal since re-joining the club in the summer.

Coleraine stunned the Seasiders with their second goal barely two minutes later after Conor McKendry took off on a run which took him past a couple of challenges to fire an unstoppable effort past Ben Nicholl.

McKendry turned provider five minutes after that for Evan Tweed to smash home Coleraine’s third of the evening before, just past the half-hour mark, their relentless pursuit of goals continued when they were awarded a penalty which Friel converted despite the best efforts and guesswork of Nicholl in the home goal.

And Friel was ultimately to go home with the match ball with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining after he bagged his third of the evening following more good work by Wilson.

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© Andrew McCarroll/Pacemaker Press Jamie Glackin in action against Carrick Rangers

Oran Kearney's side were on their travels again in the next round, away to Carrick Rangers.

Again, an early goal set them up to progress when, on 13 minutes, Friel's deep right-sided cross was nodded back into the area by Jamie Glackin for Matthew Shevlin to direct the ball past Neil Shields from close range.

After a number of attempts Coleraine's second eventually arrived with eight minutes remaining. A mistake in the home defence allowed Shevlin to get on the end of a throw-in to comfortably slot the finish past Shields to double his tally for the evening.

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© Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press Conor McKendry and Patrick McLean tussle for possession

Next up, in the quarter-finals, was Glentoran's visit to The Showgrounds which brought another two goals and another clean sheet.

The Bannsiders might have moved in front as early as the eighth minute when McKendry rattled the crossbar from just outside the box but they did take the lead on 19 minutes after McKendry teamed up with Jamie Glackin on the counter attack with the latter slotting the opener past Ross Glendinning.

Coleraine then doubled their lead on 63 minutes after Shevlin pounced on a mistake by Malachy Smith before finishing confidently past Glendinning.

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© Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press Matthew Shevlin with the match ball after his semi-final hat-trick

Moving onto the semi-finals, Coleraine were paired with Warrenpoint Town on the Ballycastle Road.

Home advantage seemed to pay off when, as early as the fifth minute, Shevlin kicked the scoring off with a first time effort into the bottom corner.

'Point were reduced to ten men late in the first half following Gavin Peers' dismissal following a challenge on Eoin Bradley just before they were further punished when McKendry found the net from the edge of the box.

Shevlin doubled his tally for the evening on 56 minutes with a back post header from a McKendry delivery but the visitors showed some fight when they pulled one back soon after through Kealan Dillon's deflected effort, the first and only goal Coleraine have conceded in the competition this season so far.

But any hopes of a comeback were well and truly dashed just after the hour as Shevlin - by now the competition's leading scorer - bagged his third of the evening from the spot after he had been upended in the box by Luke Gallagher.

Coleraine's fifth arrived on 79 minutes through substitute James McLaughlin who latched onto a Friel flick to fire beyond Mitchell with Glackin then completing the scoring four minutes from time with a well executed strike from the edge of the area into the bottom corner.