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McLaughlin's strike proves crucial as Coleraine close gap at the top

Coleraine 2 Glenavon 1

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On up: Stewart Nixon hails his opener for the Bannsiders

On up: Stewart Nixon hails his opener for the Bannsiders

On up: Stewart Nixon hails his opener for the Bannsiders

Coleraine cut the gap at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership to four points after a hard fought win against Glenavon at The Showgrounds.

The Bannsiders - who had won their last seven fixtures in all competitions - started on the front foot and missed two guilt edged chances through James McLaughlin and Stewart Nixon to take the lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

However, their dominance was rewarded on 12 minutes as McLaughlin held the ball up in the middle of the pitch and he released the run of Nixon, who scored his first goal in Coleraine colours since arriving from Carrick Rangers in the January transfer window.

On 25 minutes the visitors spurned a glorious chance to draw level as a strong run and cross from Conor McCloskey was met by Jordan Jenkins but the striker failed to hit the target.

That miss would prove costly for Gary Hamilton's men as the Bannsiders doubled their lead on 34 minutes. The lively Nixon once again beat the offside trap and, after he failed to round Jonathan Tuffey, the striker had the vision to pick out McLaughlin who fired home.

Tuffey's heroics denied Coleraine a third before the break as the shot stopper was on hand to save from Nixon and McLaughlin.

Oran Kearney's men should have put the game to bed on 54 minutes as a free-kick delivery from Jamie Glackin found Aaron Jarvis at the back post and his header across the goal evaded a touch from Nixon on the line.

On 75 minutes, Josh Carson fouled Jenkins at the edge of the area and McCloskey arrowed a free-kick into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Chris Johns.

Incredibly, Glenavon almost grabbed an equaliser three minutes later as Jenkins' cross found substitute Greg Moorhouse inside the box but the ex-Sligo Rovers ace failed to convert.

Coleraine almost grabbed a third in added time as a lovely cross from sub Matthew Fitzpatrick went close to finding an unmarked Curtis Allen.

The Bannsiders held on for a precious win which means they trail Linfield by four points with eight games left to play.

COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Canning, Jarvis (Fitzpatrick, 70 mins), Lowry, McLaughlin (Bradley, 78 mins), Carson, Glackin (Allen, 58 mins), Traynor, Nixon.

Subs not used: Gallagher, Douglas, McConaghie, O'Donnell.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Larmour (Garrett, 46 mins), Doyle (Birney, 46 mins), Harmon, Purkis, McCloskey, Snoddy, Singleton, Jenkins, Davidson (Moorhouse, 67 mins), Coates.

Subs Not Used: Burns, Byrne, Beggs, Farren.

Referee: Jamie Robinson

Belfast Telegraph