LARNE boss Tiernan Lynch put his faith in his youngsters as the Invermen brought the curtain down on the regular season with a hard fought 2-1 defeat at home to Coleraine.
The victory secured Coleraine second place, while Larne now move on to Tuesday’s European play-off at home to Glenavon.
With that game in mind, Lynch made 10 changes to his starting one up, give six of the club’s Academy players their chance either from the start or off the bench.
It was one of these players, 17-year-old striker Matty Lusty who fired Larne ahead on nine minutes. Coleraine’s front pair, James McLaughlin and Curtis Allen struck a goal apiece early in the second half to claim victory.
There was a nice touch ahead of kick-off as Coleraine defender Steven Douglas, who was retiring at the end of the game, got a guard of honour from both sides as he entered the pitch – a player who started and ended his Irish League career at Inver Park, as it turned out.
It was a youthful Larne side who made the strong start however, and they took the lead after nine minutes when Matty Lusty fired them in front.
A driving run from Andy Scott on the right flank saw him slip the ball inside to Lusty and the teenage prospect took a touch to steady himself, before firing a low effort past Marty Gallagher and into the bottom right corner.
The much-changed home side continued to acquit themselves well, but it was Coleraine who almost struck next on 21 minutes.
A cross from the left was met by Ben Doherty at the back post and he steered his effort past Conor Mitchell, only for Graham Kelly to make a last ditch clearance.
A minute later and it was Larne who went close, this time goalscorer Lusty turned provider, but his low cross flashed across the face of goal with Johnny McMurray just failing to get the final touch.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued, as Curtis Allen struck the base of the post after Conor Mitchell failed to claim a corner.
Larne youngster Lusty almost added his own second of the day, when his header from Lee Lynch’s cross appeared to be heading for the top left corner, but Gallagher kept it out at full stretch.
Coleraine found their equaliser four minutes into the second half. Ben Doherty, with time and space to cross, delivered the ball into the box and James McLaughlin produced an unconventional finish under Conor Mitchell, as he looked to bring the ball down.
The turned it round was complete on 57 minutes and again Doherty was the creator on the right as his cross was met by Curtis Allen at the front post and headed into the ground, with the bounce beating Mitchell with the ball ending up in the net.
Larne refused to give in however, and Andy Scott hit the crossbar twice inside the space of two minutes.
With Tuesday’s game in mind, Tiernan Lynch took the opportunity to introduce three more Academy prospects as the second half wore on, while Douglas came on for the final time in his Irish League career as a late sub as the Bannsiders held on victory.
Larne: C Mitchell, Kelly (43’ Adair), Scott (’78 Scott), Lynch, McKendry, Wade Slater, D’Sena, McMurray, Lusty, Greer (’57 Sloan 6)
Unused subs: Mottley-Henry, Curran, Foster
Coleraine: Gallagher, Kane, Mullan, Canning, Jarvis (’46 Nixon 7), Doherty (’91 Douglas), Lowry, McLaughlin, Carson, Glackin, Allen (’80 Wilson)
Unused subs: Parkhill, Beverland, Brennan, Kelly
Referee: Keith Kennedy