Lowry ends Coleraine goal drought to silence Crusaders
Coleraine 1 Crusaders 0: Stephen Lowry ended a six-month goal famine last night to secure Coleraine a first win over Crusaders in six attempts.
The midfielder, who hasn't scored since September, found the target after 80 minutes of a game Coleraine dominated.
The Limavady man, who was sidelined for three months following knee surgery, finished off an impressive move initiated by substitute Shane Jennings and striker Davy McDaid. He curled a shot past keeper Sean O'Neill with the outside of his right foot.
But it took a late fingertip save from home keeper Eugene Ferry to ensure the victory was delivered when sub David McAllister tested him. Ferry, who had little to do all night, stretched to turn over.
After Tuesday night's marathon County Antrim Shield final against Linfield, the Crues looked jaded and Coleraine capitalised, mounting a concerted offensive from the start to put the Crues defence under intense pressure.
Coleraine striker Eoin Bradley's early sortee into the penalty area ended with a shot blocked.
Then McDaid smashed a vicious volley wide after Paul Owens had galloped past Matthew King and dropped a pinpoint pass inside for the former Derry City man, who was left unmarked in the box.
Oran Kearney's side maintained their stranglehold. McDaid wasted two more openings and when winger Paul Owens wriggled free inside the danger zone, his ground shot was smothered by O'Neill.
Crusaders couldn't retain possession long enough to ease the onslaught and big O'Neill came to their rescue again, collecting Harkin's 23rd minute free kick.
But the Crues finally worked themselves back into the picture, twice threatening before the break. Defender Paul Leeman's sweeping cross from the left flank found Declan Caddell lurking at the back post. The midfielder's downward header was expertly turned away by Ferry.
Later, winger Paul Heatley wasted a left foot chance.
The Crues introduced midfielder Chris Morrow at half-time but it was Coleraine who looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Gareth Tommons stabbed a shot wide.
Bradley failed to register from a Harkin offload and O'Neill frustrated Harkin in the 69th minute as the busy midfield dynamo sent in an accurate long range effort.
The game looked to be heading for a draw until centre back Stephen Douglas and Jennings combined to deliver a pass for McDaid, who in turn picked out Lowry on his own inside the danger area and he left O'Neill bewildered, curling a solid strike past him from close range.
Ferry denied David McAllister five minutes later with his fingertip clearance.
Coleraine: Ferry, Watt, Beverland, Douglas, Canning, Harkin, Lowry, Tommons, Owens, McDaid, Bradley (Jennings 78). Subs. Hegarty, Ogilby, Mullan, McDowell.
Crusaders: O'Neill, Robinson, Hanley, Leeman, King, Caddell, Clarke (Morrow 46), Heatley, Snoddy (E. McAllister, 29), McCutcheon (D. McAllister 77), Smith. Subs. O'Hanlon, Dillon.
Referee: Arnold Hunter, (Maguiresbridge).