If ever fans left a football ground with mixed emotions, it was the Coleraine supporters at Seaview on Saturday.
Any team that records a 5-2 win on Crusaders’ new artificial surface has every right to shout about their achievement from the rooftops but the scintillating performance of goal-getter Rory Patterson only served as a painful reminder to the Bannsiders’ faithful of what they will be missing.
On Friday, Patterson pledged his future to Glentoran Football Club. Coleraine, who gave him the opportunity to shine in the Carling Premiership, are now going to have to wave farewell to their prized asset.
At Seaview, he demonstrated why clubs across the British Isles were clambering for his signature.
Four goals — two from the penalty spot — brought the Crues down to earth with a thud after their stunning County Antrim Shield triumph in midweek.
And only the woodwork prevented him from netting five goals on a day the home defence will want to forget in a hurry.
Patterson was booed by the travelling support when he took to the field and some Coleraine fans, angry at his decision to jump ship, gave him an ear bashing.
Bannsiders boss David Platt decided to throw his star man into the action despite the Glentoran deal and he was handsomely rewarded.
“I want the fans to get behind Rory,” said Platt.
“I am the manager of the club and I made a very bold decision to play him. It could have been too easy to say he doesn’t want to play for Coleraine.
“Lots of things crossed my mind but I think I made the right decision and have been proved right. I’m paid to make big decisions. Rory is signed to the end of the season and I want him here.
“He knows how much I want him here. Coleraine have never had a striker this good for years so the fans should get behind him.
“I’m disappointed when any player leaves as we are trying to build a team but let’s try and win something. Unless the chairman tells me otherwise I’m hoping Rory will be here until the end of May.”
Glentoran fans have every reason be licking their lips at the prospect of Patterson strutting his stuff at the Oval.
“To be challenging for the league title every year and be favourites for that league is the type of pressure you want as a player,” said Patterson.
“Glentoran also have a long record of playing in Europe and that is a big draw.
“Coleraine are a very attacking team but so are Glentoran. The offer was good and Scott Young sold the club well to me. I want to play alongside the top players.”
Patterson’s first goal was a peach of a strike. The ball left his boot outside the penalty area like a rocket and flew past keeper Chris Keenan who was left flapping at air.
Mickey Collins’ diving header levelled matters but after the break the visitors were rampant.
Keenan was guilty of a clumsy challenge on Gareth Tommons and Patterson stroked home the penalty.
Tommons was again sent sprawling in the box, this time by a late tackle from David Bell and Patterson was ruthless again from 10 yards.
By the 58th minute it was 4-1 to the visitors when Darren Boyce danced past David Magowan and poked the ball home.
Chris Morrow grabbed a goal back on 70 minutes, turning sharply and blasting the ball into the corner of the net but, inevitably, Patterson had the final word, collecting a Tommy McCallion pass and coolly lifting the ball over Keenan in the final minute.
Crues boss Stephen Baxter felt his side started with a spring in their step but that Coleraine were worthy winners by the finish.
“The first 20 minutes were like a practise match for us, we were playing all the football but they scored from a kick-off to take a 1-0 lead and for the next 20 minutes we were at sea while they played all the football,” he said.
“The penalties we conceded were a nonsense. Chris (Keenan) made a bad mistake when he lost the ball and brought down Gareth Tommons while David (Bell) showed a little inexperience and made a tackle he didn’t need to make.
“We made a few changes and tried to hit back but Coleraine have good players and are a very good team. They are a magnificent team that pass the ball well and their movement is excellent.
“And Rory scores four goals — no wonder Glentoran have signed him! Coleraine held a lovely shape at the back and the players did their jobs well.
“Hats off to them, we tried to put them under pressure but they weathered that.
The best team won and we unfortunately had to adapt after losing Mark Dickson to injury. Our options were limited.”