Belfast Telegraph

I think it went in: Coleraine hero Jamie McGonigle backs officials after controversial strike sinks Linfield

McGonigle's controversial strike seals points but Lyons' horror facial injury will leave him sidelined

By Jonathan McNabb

Coleraine striker Jamie McGonigle reckons referee Arnold Hunter was right to award his winning goal during Saturday's top two clash.

As the game looked destined for a draw, Northern Ireland under-21 international McGonigle hit a shot under the body of Linfield keeper Roy Carroll.

The ball deflected towards the net and despite the best efforts of Josh Robinson to prevent a goal, referee Arnold Hunter and his assistants signalled that the ball had crossed the line.

An incensed Blues manager David Healy - who refused to speak to the media afterwards - was dismissed for his protestations in a dramatic ending on the Ballycastle Road.

But McGonigle was defiant. He sent this tweet on Saturday evening:

And talking to the media, he argued: "I think the ball went in. That's why I went celebrating straight away. It's up to the officials and they agreed, so it's great to secure a 2-1 win. We knew we'd get another chance to win the game and thankfully I managed to take it."

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney admitted he is yet to be convinced: "I don't know if the ball crossed the line, but the linesman put his flag up straight away. I've stood here many times on the receiving end of one, but looking back at the footage it is very hard to make a judgement."

The opening 45 minutes were cagey with McGonigle testing Carroll from distance, before Linfield's Niall Quinn forced Chris Johns into tipping the ball over the crossbar as both teams lacked any creativity.

However, on the stroke of half-time, Hunter was left with a major decision to make as Coleraine defender Stephen O'Donnell was penalised for a foul on Andy Waterworth.

The summer signing from Institute was the last man back, but luckily for the Bannsiders, the referee only produced a yellow card. 

The deadlock was broken on 55 minutes when Lyons headed the ball home from Ciaron Harkin's delightful free-kick.

The home side's lead lasted barely 10 minutes as big defender Mark Haughey rose unmarked to give Linfield an equaliser.

Then, at the death, McGonigle struck as he latched onto Joe McCready's through ball to give Coleraine their first home victory against Linfield in five years.

Kearney was delighted with his side's performance and admitted the bumper crowd at The Showgrounds is why he loves Irish League football.

"I would love to see this place packed out like that every week as it's a buzz for the players, it's a buzz for me and everyone about the place," Kearney said.

"It was a real spectacle, who couldn't love it with the crowd, the atmosphere the quality of the play and the intensity?

"The boys died on the pitch today, they gave everything and it was a great performance all over.

Kearney admitted his players won't get 'carried away' as they face Crusaders on Tuesday night in the League Cup at Seaview.

"People can say it's a good three points and whatever else that goes with it," Kearney added. "With all the wins we have had this year, you get the same points for each one.

"Yes we'll take joy out of the manner of it, but we won't get carried away by it, the boys are well versed and know the score."

Belfast Telegraph

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