A stunning free-kick from super-sub John Courtney was enough to give Coagh United all three points against fellow strugglers Portstewart.
With his first touch of the ball, Courtney’s 68th minute strike nestled in the top corner of Joel Madison’s goal and secured a vital victory for Coagh in their bid to avoid relegation from the NIFL Championship 2.
In the end, it was a deserved victory for Ian Todd’s side at Hagan Park last Saturday.
But the team that started the day one place above them in the league table created the best chances in a fairly even first half.
Indeed, Coagh had goalkeeper William Hassan to thank for keeping the game scoreless at half time, when, on 44 minutes, he pulled off an incredible double save, first from the head, then the foot, of Portstewart forward Lee Forgrave.
The hosts started the game in nervy fashion and the pace of Forgrave and Christopher Hanson was an early worry for a defence missing Karl Steele.
Hanson was the first to threaten when he latched on to a ball over the top, turned Stephen Glasgow inside out, but shot straight at Hassan.
Aaron Canning was then caught in possession and when the ball was squared to Hanson the Coagh defender must have been glad to see the striker’s shot sail over the crossbar.
It took a good twenty minutes for Coagh to settle and their first real effort on goal was a Glasgow volley from a Jonathan Young corner, that went narrowly wide.
Minutes later Terence O’Brien, who had an excellent came for Coagh, had a shot deflected wide after he was set up by Jason Gillespie.
Gillespie himself then registered a header on target before the play swung to the other end and Hassan did well to save Forgrave’s goal-bound effort with his feet.
Canning then came to Coagh’s rescue in the 35th minute with a goal-saving tackle when Hanson was about to pull the trigger from inside the box.
Gillespie was the first to test Madison with a tame effort that the Portstewart keeper somehow almost fumbled into his own net.
O’Brien then had a long-range effort saved before Daniel McKinless waltzed into the box but could not beat Madison under pressure from defenders.
Todd threw on Eoghan Quigg for Josh Rhodich on 62 minutes, but it was Courtney’s arrival five minutes later that changed the game.
Young broke through a couple of tackles and burst forward from midfield but was felled by Portstewart’s Mark Mearns. And from 25 yards Courtney buried the resultant free kick.
The same player had a good shout for a penalty turned down two minutes later and again went close on 76 minutes, cutting in from the left and forcing Madison into a good save.
The Portstewart forwards, so dangerous in the first half, were living off scraps and Courtney almost applied the coup de grace with ten minutes to pay. He surged into the box, beat a defender easily and prodded the ball goalwards. Madison could only push it up in the air, but managed to claw it away at the second attempt.
The home side were braced for an onslaught in the last five minutes that never really materialised. Forgrave whizzed a volley narrowly wide but Hassan was untroubled and Quigg and Courtney both passed up chances to wrap the game up before the final whistle sounded.
This Saturday, Coagh have another massive game when they travel to face bottom club Wakehurst. Kick-off is 3pm.
Coagh: W. Hassan, S. McGeown, S. Forrest, J. Ferguson, A. Canning, J. Young, S. Glasgow, T. O’Brien, J. Gillespie, J. Rhodich, D. McKinless. Subs: S. Crooks, J. Courtney, E. Quigg, D. McGuckin, S. Heneghan