Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders extra special thanks to hot Owens

By Ian Callender

Crusaders 4 Coleraine 1 (AET): Stephen Baxter had to bring on his big guns before Crusaders clinched this third round League Cup tie in extra time, with Josh Robinson heading them in front and Jordan Owens scoring twice in the last three minutes to give the scoreline an emphatic gloss.

The Crues boss chose to leave Owens, David Magowan and Chris Morrow on the substitutes' bench after the rigors of the north Belfast derby on Saturday but he had introduce all three before the north Belfast side took a stranglehold on the game against a full-strength Coleraine side who gave as good as they got for 105 minutes.

It looked as if it would be a tale of two goalkeepers as, first, Wayne Drummond made a superb full length stop from Gary McCutcheon to deny Crusaders a winner in normal time and then Sean O'Neill saved one on one from Gary Browne.

But with the last header of the first half of extra time, Robinson rose unchallenged six yards out to convert Morrow's corner and those late headers from the towering Owens extended Crusaders unbeaten run to 11.

Baxter was forced to make a late change when Aiden Watson took ill just before kick-off and Matthew Snoody was brought into the starting line-up while Oran Kearney opted to strengthen the Coleraine team which claimed a fortuitous league win against Ards at the weekend with Howard Beverland returning from suspension to replace Paul Owens..

It took the Crues only nine minutes to take the lead. Gary McCutcheon and David McAllister combined to set up Snoddy who took aim from 25 yards and found the bottom corner.

The goal was hardly a surprise, though, because Crusaders have failed to score in only one of their last 29 home domestic matches.

Craig McClean, from a free kick, and Sean Cleary both went close to extending the lead but Coleraine, despite conceding a lot of possession, were always in the game and they equalised five minutes before half time. Beverland found himself in the inside left position and floated over a cross to Lowry at the back post and his cushioned header was perfectly paced for Browne to volley home.

David Magowan was introduced for the second half by Baxter but it was Lowry who should have given Coleraine the lead seven minutes into the half. The midfielder met Ruairi Harkin's corner but headed over the bar.

Robinson, now in a midfield role, was inches too high with a superb shot from 20 yards and Snoddy also fired just wide. Both those efforts were upstaged by Michael Hegarty whose volley from 30 yards was so good that O'Neill could only watch, grateful that it went just off course.

It was end to end in the closing stages of normal time with both teams having chances to win it, but it was class that told in the end.

Crusaders: O'Neill; King, Robinson, Coates, McClean; E McAllister, Caddell (Morrow 68 mins), Cleary (Owens 57 mins), Snoddy; McCutcheon, D McAllister (Magowan 45 mins). Subs not used: Wray, Lacroix

Coleraine: Drummond; Watt (Bradley 65 mins), Beverland, Ogilby, McIlmoyle (Owens 109 mins); Hegarty (Carson 99 mins); Canning, Lowry, Harkin, Tommons, Harkin; Browne. Subs not used: Douglas, McMillan.

Referee: Colin Burns (Comber)

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