Coyle’s class comes to Solitude as Bolton beat Cliftonville
Cliftonville 0 Bolton Wanderers 2: Quite whether Solitude will ever see a goal kissed with as much grace as the one Owen Coyle tucked away last night remains to be seen but one thing's for certain — the Bolton boss hasn't lost his touch.
He named himself in the Wanderers' starting line-up as Cliftonville celebrated the opening of their new 3G pitch with an entertaining friendly — a night totally and utterly stolen by the 44-year-old who also played a part in Ivan Klasnic's opener.
The old place wasn't exactly jam-packed to the rafters, but those who braved the cold at Solitude were treated to a few little snippets of history.
On a night which was supposed to be more about the occasion than the result, opposite number Eddie Patterson opted against affording himself a run-out and stuck with the same starting XI which defeated Ballymena United 5-0 on Saturday.
Leicester City were the last Premier League side to visit Solitude but the north Belfast venue has fairly changed since that afternoon 10 years ago.
For starters, the stand at the Bowling Green End was nowhere to be seen.
In its place stood a crumbling old terrace which, despite the overhead shelter, offered little respite from the biting wind and rain offered by our local winters... springs, summers and autumns.
At the opposite end was a similar facility for home supporters — the infamous Cage terrace.
So-called because of the thick chicken-wiring which scaled as high as the eye could see, this was the Red Army's spiritual home — their Kop.
It has since made way for a new 1400-seater stand complex, within which are situated some of the most modern facilities in Irish League football.
Sampling the delights of last night's pre-match reception was none other than FA Premier League Chairman Sir Dave Richards and his Bolton counterpart Phil Gartside — but it was still a world away from the Reebok Stadium.
It was Coyle’s strike partner Klasnic who broke the deadlock when he got on the end of Coyle's pass to slam a fierce left-footed drive firmly beyond the despairing dive of John Connolly.
Coyle's moment of magic arrived on 66 minutes.
After receiving possession from Rodrigo Moreno on the edge of the area, he produced an inch-perfect dink over Connolly which nestled in the far corner.
A night which had been expected to belong to the occasion and to Solitude's new pitch had been stolen by the Owen Coyle show. What a way to celebrate — a goal worthy of the occasion.
CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly, Fleming, R Scannell, Hutton, Donaghy, McMullan, C Scannell, Garrett, Johnston, Jones, McVeigh. Subs: Walls (Connolly, 82 mins), Smyth (Fleming, 56 mins), Caldwell (McMullan, 56 mins), Seydak (McVeigh, 56 mins), Bannon (Donaghy, 46 mins), Stuart (Garrett, 80 mins), Burns (Jones, 56 mins), Lynch (Johnston, 68 mins), Donnelly (C Scannell, 68 mins), Brennan (R Scannell, 68 mins)
BOLTON: Bogdan, Blakeman, Alonso, Connolly, Bennet, Cohen, Moreno, Davies, Coyle, Klasnic, Blake. Subs: Riley (for Blakeman, 68 mins), Lainton, Eaves (Coyle, 68 mins), Sheridan (for Davies, 84 mins), Eckersley (Bennet, 74 mins), McGeehan (Blake, 84 mins), Vella (for Moreno, 74 mins)
REFEREE: Brian Turkington (Bangor).