IRISH LEAGUE: Six-goal thriller at The Showgrounds

Coleraine 3 Crusaders 3

Saturday, 20th January 2018, 6:06 pm
Updated Saturday, 20th January 2018, 7:17 pm
Eoin Bradley and Howard Beverland battle for possession. David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

It was the game fans and pundits alike have been waiting for, and boy it didn't disappoint.

Six goals, two comebacks and a sending off saw both sides play their part in an enthralling affair.

Crusaders, who had Colin Coates sent off, led 2-0 and 3-1 before Coleraine staged a fabulous comeback to earn a share of the spoils.

The hosts carved out the first real opportunity on 16 minutes as Stephen O'Donnell skimmed a half volley off the bar.

The first yellow cards were produced in the 23rd minute following an off the ball altercation between Eoin Bradley and Coates. The pair ended up in the back of the net after a Coleraine corner had been cleared. Referee Raymond Crangle gave both a stern talking to.

The deadlock was broken eight minutes before the break after a sublime piece of skill by Gavin Whyte. He skinned Aaron Traynor before lashing a shot into the far corner.

They doubled their advantage inside two minutes after Coleraine gave away possession from their own free kick. Paul Heatley raced cleared but struck the post with his shot, Whyte though was on hand to fire the ball into the empty net.

Coleraine almost pulled a goal back on 42 minutes, but Sean O'Neill managed to palm away Brad Lyons low shot.

The game was back on three minutes into the second half as Jamie McGonigle slotted into the empty net after some great skill by Bradley.

But just as the hosts were starting to get a foothold in the game the visitors grabbed a third. Once again Whyte and Heatley combined with the latter racing clear and slotting past Johns.

The Crues suffered a blow on 63 minutes as Coates was dismissed after picking up a second yellow following another clash with Bradley.

And they were dealt another five minutes later as McGonigle produced an unstoppable strike into the top corner to set up an enthralling final 20 minutes.

Heatley was denied a second by a great save from Johns, before Coleraine remarkably drew level. Martin Smith's inswinging cross was deflected home by McCauley to send the home fans into raptures.

Two minutes into stoppage time Lyons played in Bradley again, but his lobbed effort was hooked off the line by Ward.