Irish Premiership: Early goals lift Coleraine to 2-1 win at Larne

James McLaughlin scored Coleraine's second as the Bannsiders made it five wins in a row
James McLaughlin scored Coleraine's second as the Bannsiders made it five wins in a row

Larne missed an opportunity to gain ground on Irish Premiership leaders Linfield after falling to a 2-1 defeat at home by Coleraine.

Stephen Lowry put the Bannsiders ahead with a sixth-minute penalty before James McLaughlin doubled on 11.

Larne skipper Albert Watson headed a consolation goal for the hosts having been at fault for McLaughlin's goal.

Larne drop down to third behind Crusaders, who drew with Portadown, while Coleraine move up to fourth.

The Invermen are still awaiting their first win of 2021 having picked up just one point from their last three games, but will be relieved that Linfield and Crusaders both dropped points on an enthralling evening of local action.

After sharing six goals with Crusaders in Saturday's thriller at Seaview, Larne looked to get back to winning ways in order to keep pace with Linfield.

However, the home side found themselves chasing the game after just six minutes when Lowry converted from the spot.

Ronan Hale, fresh off his two-goal salvo against Crusaders, fouled Lyndon Kane inside the box, and while Conor Devlin guessed correctly, he was unable to keep Lowry's penalty from finding the back of the net.

With their tails up, Coleraine pressed high and their endeavours soon bore fruit with McLaughlin doubling the advantage after 11 minutes.

Larne skipper Albert Watson endured mixed fortunes at Inver Park
Larne skipper Albert Watson endured mixed fortunes at Inver Park

The impressive Stewart Nixon nicked the ball off Larne skipper Albert Watson, allowing McLaughlin to bear down on goal and slot the ball underneath the onrushing Devlin.

Their nerves rattled, Larne - to their credit - improved as the half went on with Tomas Cosgrove and David McDaid both going close, while McDaid also had a goal ruled out for offside.

Sensing a change was required to break the Bannsiders down, Larne boss Tiernan Lynch made two changes at half-time with Jeff Hughes and Johnny McMurray replacing Andrew Mitchell and Mark Randall as part of a switch to a 3-5-2.

That change in personnel and system gave Larne more fluency in attack and their comeback was spurred by Watson's headed goal 16 minutes from time as the centre-back atoned for his earlier lapse in concentration by heading John Herron's corner past Gareth Deane.

McMurray, who made a significant impact from the bench, was then denied a brilliant equaliser when his looping volley struck the top of the crossbar.

McMurray also had a penalty appeal waved away in stoppage time by referee Shane Andrews as Coleraine held on to take all three points in what was their fifth win on the bounce.

As for Larne, it is the first time they have lost back-to-back league games at home since their promotion from the Championship in 2019.

Lynch's men will look to bounce back when they host Glentoran on Friday Night Football, live on BBC Two NI, with Coleraine at home to Crusaders on Saturday.

Coleraine captain Stephen O'Donnell, speaking to Radio Ulster Sportsound:

"I think it was a perfect away performance, I think we were happy to concede possession in certain areas.

"We know Larne are a good side and control the ball quite well so we came wit a game plan and stuck to it really well.

"Earlier in the season, we were starting games slightly slower so it's been important to start quickly on this mini-run we've been on.

"Credit to the lads, the way we turned the ball over, especially for the second goal, was exactly what we've been working on."

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