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Bann boys crush gutted Blues

Linfield 0 Coleraine 3

Close eye: Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry keeps track of Linfield’s Shayne Lavery at Windsor
Close eye: Coleraine ace Stephen Lowry keeps track of Linfield’s Shayne Lavery at Windsor
Ben Doherty

By Steven Beacom

Coleraine just love playing Linfield. It's three games against the Blues this season and three wins for Oran Kearney's side and a place in the BetMcLean League Cup final to boot.

The Bannsiders ripped David Healy's side apart in the second half of this contest at Windsor Park with goals from Aaron Canning and Aaron Jarvis bookending Ben Doherty's cross-cum-shot which deflected in off Joshua Robinson.

What a night for Coleraine and what a shocker for Linfield, who won the competition last season. Defensively they were shambolic after the break as Coleraine threatened with virtually every attack.

Kearney's second spell in charge may have had some lows recently with shock league defeats away to Warrenpoint and Institute but there have been many more highs since the former Linfield hero returned to the Showgrounds after his stint in Scotland with St Mirren.

They are genuine title challengers and will now fancy lifting the League Cup when they meet Crusaders in next year's highly-anticipated decider.

As for Linfield, they will have to focus on retaining their title and the Irish Cup. Healy, though, will know that his side will have to perform much better than this if they are to win any silverware.

Before the last-four clash, Kearney had spoken about how the venue could be inspirational for Coleraine given their Irish Cup final success at Windsor in 2018 and their comprehensive 4-2 league victory over the Blues earlier in the season.

The Bannsiders had also overcome the champions 1-0 at the Showgrounds so they were looking for a hat-trick before Christmas.

After a few early nervy moments in each box, it was Blues captain Jamie Mulgrew who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening third of the contest with a rasping 25-yard drive that sailed just over the bar.

Stephen Fallon had a pop from a similar distance moments after the half-hour mark which went wide.

At the other end, Jamie Glackin broke with intent inside the Linfield half but couldn't find Eoin Bradley with his through ball.

Chances were few and far between in a dour struggle not helped by the quality of the surface.

The best came Shayne Lavery's way on 40 minutes when he intercepted a Lyndon Kane back pass and raced clear. Thankfully for the Coleraine captain, Chris Johns made an excellent save to deny the Northern Ireland striker, who will feel that he ought to have scored.

Moments later, an audacious 35-yard strike from the lively Kirk Millar was just off target.

If Linfield ended the first period on top, the visitors dominated the opening exchanges of the second with Doherty (left) dragging an effort wide and Jarvis heading straight at Rohan Ferguson after brilliant approach work on both occasions from Bradley.

Glackin was another causing Healy's side problems.

The home side responded with a blistering strike from Joel Cooper which was tipped away by Johns.

Suddenly there was some excitement to warm the fans on a cold evening.

On 62 minutes, it was the Coleraine supporters who were celebrating taking the lead when Canning headed in from close range after Blues goalkeeper Ferguson failed to deal with Doherty's free-kick.

How Canning, who is having an excellent season, enjoyed the moment.

He claimed the winning goal for the Bannsiders on home turf back in October but some felt it was a Mark Stafford own goal. There was no doubt about this one.

Linfield huffed and puffed after that but it was Kearney's side who remained the more dangerous throughout the game's closing stages.

On 79 minutes, they sealed the tie and a place in the final when Doherty's effort was deflected over Ferguson by Robinson and into the net.

If that was bad for the Blues, the Jarvis goal on 82 minutes was even worse.

Left unmarked in the six-yard box, the Coleraine No.6 got up and headed in Doherty's corner. Cue crazy scenes of joy in the stands and on the pitch from the Bannsiders.

Coleraine had embarrassed the Blues once again.

LINFIELD: Ferguson, Casement (Stewart 72), Stafford, McGivern, Clarke, Millar, Mitchell (Hery 57), Mulgrew (Waterworth 75), Fallon, Cooper, Lavery. Subs not used: Moore, Callacher, Waterworth, Reynolds, Hume.

LARNE: Johns, Kane (McConaghie 77), Canning, Mullan, Traynor, Carson, Lowry, Jarvis, Doherty, Glackin (Parkhill 84), Bradley (McLaughlin 89). Subs not used: Gallagher, Douglas, Gawe, McGuckin.

Man of the match: Aaron Canning (Coleraine)

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)

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