Patterson does it again as Cliftonville's slump goes on
Cliftonville 0 Coleraine 1
Rory Patterson was the Coleraine hero once again last night, pouncing for the only goal of the game to maintain the Bannsiders’ fine record in Belfast this season and knocking Cliftonville off top spot in the process.
The Reds were dealt a pre-match blow when skipper Chris Scannell was ruled out through injury and there was further upheaval less than 20 minutes before kick-off when substitute Barry Holland was taken off the team-sheet and replaced by Francis Murphy.
There was still no place for new boy Sammy Morrow in the Coleraine side, though Darren Boyce was fit enough to claim a place on the bench.
Home boss Eddie Patterson had questioned his side’s motivation following their weekend loss at Portadown but he will have been heartened by their response, albeit with no further points added to the tally.
Kieran O’Connor brought an early save out of Davy O’Hare and Liam Boyce flashed a drive agonisingly wide of the mark from a tight angle.
Coleraine had rarely threatened but ace marksman Patterson gave a sign of things to come on the stroke of half-time when, after fashioning room for himself on the edge of the area, he let fly with a shot which, though off target, had goalkeeper John Connolly scrambling.
It was a similar story five minutes after the break when Patterson sent an audacious left-footed attempt inches past the upright from, but there was no questioning his accuracy on the hour when he took advantage of hesitancy in the home defence and kept his composure to slot home for his 32nd goal of the season.
The Reds’ response was almost instant. Ciaran Caldwell saw his corner cut out at the near post but raced in to smash a clever ball across the face of goal which O’Hare did well to claim in a busy six-yard box.
The Bannsiders’ keeper was eventually beaten on 73 minutes, though, when Caldwell’s cross fell for substitute Conal Burns at the far post but his fierce strike was hacked off the line by the perfectly-positioned Johnny Watt.
Liam Fleming struck over the top amid a goalmouth scramble four minutes later and George McMullan did likewise from a similar position late in the day but Cliftonville’s best chance to force an equaliser came when Burns’ corner was met at the near post by Ciaran Donaghy, who looked on as O’Hare somehow clawed the ball out to ensure yet another Belfast away day win for Coleraine.
CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly, Fleming, R Scannell, Donaghy, M Holland, McMullan, Boyce, O'Connor, Caldwell, Catney, Hutton. Subs: Murphy (for Caldwell, 87), O'Hara, Burns (for M Holland, 69), Dunlop, Jones.
COLERAINE: O'Hare, Beverland, McVey, Patterson, McCallion, Carson, Tommons, Harkin, Gibson, Mukendi, Dooley. Subs: Tolan (for Gibson, 84), McLaughlin, Watt (Tommons, 63), Boyce (Dooley, 83) Canning.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)