Belfast Telegraph

Linfield v Crusaders: Coates hits spot as blues pay the penalty

Skipper holds his nerve as Crues win dramatic shoot-out

By David Mason

Colin Coates held his nerve to blast Crusaders into the semi-finals of the League Cup following this thriller against Linfield at Windsor Park.

The game finished 1-1 after an epic 120 minutes and even when it went to a penalty shoot-out both sides still failed to throw in the towel.

After goalkeepers Johnny Tuffey and Sean O'Neill netted to make it 9-9 it was back to the start with James Knowles stepping up to hit his second of the night.

O'Neill this time pulled off a magical save to his right before Coates stepped up to win it with a thundering drive.

It looked so good for Crusaders when Declan Caddell fired them into the lead early in the second half, but Brian McCaul popped up with only two minutes remaining, scoring from the spot after Timmy Adamson had handled an Aaron Burns header on the line. Adamson picked up a red card for the indiscretion.

The result also helped Crusaders maintain their winning jinx over David Jeffrey's team – they have lost only once in the last 11 meetings – and that was in the County Antrim Shield in October 2012.

Stephen Baxter's boys have now won seven and drawn three – quite a remarkable record – and they are now currently unbeaten in 18 starts.

Tuffey suffered a bout of early nerves when he completely mis-kicked a Sean Ward back pass. Fortunately for the former Northern Ireland man the ball skidded inches past.

Tuffey was then relieved to see Caddell's drive flash just wide following his poor clearance from Nathan Hanley's corner kick.

But Tuffey more than made amends for his early jitters by producing a wonder save to deny big Jordan Owens on 13 minutes. Hanley's pin-point pass sent the big striker hurtling into the box and his low drive had goal written all over it until the Blues shot-stopper stuck out a hand to save on the line.

Linfield then had appeals for a penalty kick when Andy Waterworth beat Crues keeper O'Neill in a race for possession before going to ground. Referee Raymond Crangle wasn't impressed despite of the protests from the grandstands.

Linfield threatened again on 30 minutes through Michael Carvill's industry down the right. The midfielder's cross was met by Waterworth, whose shot was deflected clear by Josh Robinson.

The Crues bounced into life on 35 minutes following a scintillating solo burst by Owens, who sent Paul Heatley clear, but his weak looping effort was easily dealt with by Tuffey.

Linfield roared from the traps after the break with Waterworth skipping past Hanley on the right before crossing for Philip Lowry, who failed to get a shot away before being crowded out by a posse of defenders.

The action immediately swept to the other end with Heatley finding the lanky Owens free inside the box, but he shamefully volleyed high and wide.

It was pulsating stuff. Another Matthew Clarke corner caused mayhem in the Crues penalty area and Matthew Tipton completely fluffed his lines when missing an easy header at the back post.

It was the Crues who broke the deadlock on 62 minutes. Gary McCutcheon and Heatley tore Linfield apart down the left and his cross was volleyed home at the back post by Caddell.

Owens almost made it two 17 minutes from the end, but his towering header was superbly beaten away by Tuffey.

Linfield tried desperately to retrieve the situation, piling forward at every opportunity and they finally gave the home fans something to cheer by levelling two minutes from the end.

Adamson handled an Aaron Burns header on the goal line and Crangle awarded the penalty before issuing the big midfielder with a red card.

McCaul was precise from the spot.

Crusaders almost snatched it with seconds remaining, but Tuffey managed to tip David Magowan's long range effort over the bar.

Aaron Burns missed a glorious chance of shooting the Blues into the lead on 99 minutes, blasting a low shot inches past the post after being picked up by the clever Carvill.

Tuffey (pictured) then rescued the Blues on 115 minutes when Chris Morrow's free kick fell perfectly for Caddell, but his snap shot was brilliantly saved by the feet of the alert keeper.

For the record, Knowles, Carvill, BJ Burns, McCaul, Waterworth, A Burns, McAllister, Ward and Tuffey scored from the spot, with Coates (two), Morrow, McClean, Snoddy, Owens, McMaster, Magowan, Caddell and O'Neill replying for the Crues, who will now join Ballymena United, Ards and Cliftonville in Saturday's semi final draw.

Linfield: Tuffey, McVey, Waterworth, Lowry (Knowles 105), Carvill, BJ Burns, Ward, Clarke (A Burns 81), Tipton (McAllister 73), Mulgrew, McCaul.Subs: Ervin, McMenamin.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Magowan, Coates, Morrow, Robinson, Caddell, Heatley (McClean 81), Hanley (McMaster 96), Adamson, McCutcheon (Snoddy 81), Owens.Subs: Leeman, Watson.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).

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