Irish Premiership: Cliftonville hold on to dent 10-man Coleraine's title hopes

Paul O'Neill scored Cliftonville's second goal to dent Coleraine's title bid
Paul O'Neill scored Cliftonville's second goal to help dent Coleraine's title bid

Coleraine's Irish Premiership title ambitions were dented as the 10-man Bannsiders fell to a 2-1 defeat by Cliftonville at Solitude.

Jamie Harney and Paul O'Neill fired the Reds into a 2-0 lead before Ben Doherty's penalty gave Coleraine hope.

Cliftonville held on having been helped by Eoin Bradley's 75th-minute red card.

The result brings an end to Coleraine's 17-game unbeaten run and leaves Oran Kearney's side seven points adrift of leaders Linfield.

The Blues will open up a 10-point advantage at the top with victory at Portadown, although Coleraine will still have two games in hand on the champions.

Fifth-placed Cliftonville, meanwhile, keep their European hopes alive on an afternoon that also produced wins for Glentoran, Larne and Ballymena United.

The early signs for Coleraine were promising as they looked dangerous from the outset, and they were furious not to be awarded a fourth-minute penalty when Curtis Allen went down under Ryan O'Reilly's challenge.

O'Reilly was caught on the wrong side of Allen, who punched the turf in anger after seeing his appeal waved away by referee Shane Andrews.

Coleraine often found space down the right flank during the first half and almost netted the opener when Aaron Canning burst clear and found Eoin Bradley in the box. The striker's attempt was cleared by the well-placed Kris Lowe, however, with Allen lurking at the back post.

Cliftonville struggled to fashion clear-cut chances for most of the opening 45 minutes with O'Neill forcing a smart near-post save from Gareth Deane early on, but they ended the half with a bang as Harney headed the Reds into the lead.

Aaron Donnelly celebrated his 21st birthday in style as he spotted Harney's run and delivered an excellent pinpoint cross for stand-in Cliftonville captain to power his header past Deane for his first goal of the season.

Ben Doherty's penalty failed to spark a Coleraine revival as they fell to their first defeat in 18 games
Ben Doherty's penalty failed to spark a Coleraine revival as they fell to their first defeat in 18 games

Just prior to half-time, Bradley appealed for a penalty when he collided with Rory Hale inside the Cliftonville box with Andrews again unmoved.

Coleraine should have equalised on the hour mark when Ben Doherty's free-kick delivery found an unmarked Stephen O'Donnell six yards out, only for the visiting captain to direct his weak header down and into the hands of Aaron McCarey.

O'Donnell's misery was compounded a couple of minutes later when O'Neill doubled Cliftonville's lead with a fine turn-and-shot, reacting quickest to O'Reilly's knock down from Rory Hale's corner before guiding his right-footed shot past Deane.

A backtracking Joshua Carson felt he had cleared the ball just before it crossed the line, but the linesman flagged for a goal to leave Coleraine with a mountain to climb.

The response from the Bannsiders was decisive, however, as Doherty pulled one back from the spot five minutes after O'Neill's goal, smashing his penalty into the top corner after Harney's foul on Bradley.

But having helped his side haul themselves back into the game, Bradley left Coleraine with a numerical disadvantage when he was shown a second yellow card for a foul on O'Reilly having already been booked following a collision with Harney in the first half.

Having dropped two points at Glenavon on Tuesday, defeat by Cliftonville is a further blow for Coleraine, who will need Linfield to drop points during the run-in if they are to win their first league title since 1974.

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