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James McLaughlin's late winner sends Coleraine through in Europa League to end long wait for continental victory

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James McLaughlin proved the hero for Coleraine with a last gasp winner of utmost quality.

James McLaughlin proved the hero for Coleraine with a last gasp winner of utmost quality.

James McLaughlin proved the hero for Coleraine with a last gasp winner of utmost quality.

James McLaughlin’s 89th minute winner against La Fiorita fired Coleraine into the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

It’s a first victory in Europe since 2003 and sets up a tie with Maribor in Slovenia next Thursday.

They left it late but the deserved winner finally arrived care of a long Aaron Traynor pass, an absolutely flawless first touch from James McLaughlin and a finish to match.

It was a goal of top quality and won worth an estimated €240,000 euro to the club, taking their overall European winnings from the summer so far to €460,000 (£413,000).

The Bannsiders had dominated the game from the off and will have been wondering how they hadn’t gone ahead even before the break.

Camped inside their visitors’ half, at times it seemed like they were taking it in turns to have a pop but none did so with any joy.

First Curtis Allen and Ben Doherty shot narrowly wide in quick succession before Josh Carson went one step further and worked the La Fiorita goalkeeper after getting on the end of an Aaron Traynor cross.

Left-back Traynor was becoming increasingly influential and it was he who teed up his opposite full-back Lyndon Kane for the next effort which, well struck, was blocked before it could nestle into the bottom corner.

After the break, the territorial dominance continued, as did the frustration in front of goal as McLaughlin forced the goalkeeper into a fine save before captain Stephen O’Donnell flicked a header wide from the resulting corner.

When they did first put the ball in the next, Aaron Jarvis’ header was ruled out for a foul in the area but just when it looked like the San Marinese visitors might somehow reach extra-time, up popped McLaughlin, given the nod to start ahead of Eoin Bradley, with his first ever European goal.

Belfast Telegraph