COLERAINE remained second in the Danske Bank Premiership following a convincing 2-0 derby day victory against rivals Ballymena United at Warden Street…
An early penalty from Stephen Lowry and a second half header from Aaron Canning secured the Bannsiders’ ninth win on the trot.
Oran Kearney made one change from the side that defeated Glenavon midweek as Eoin Bradley returned to the starting eleven, replacing Jamie Glackin who missed out through suspension. Meanwhile, the Bannsiders enjoyed a further boost as Ben Doherty returned to the bench following a six-game absence following a hamstring injury.
The home side appealed for a penalty inside the opening minute as Cathair Friel made a jinking run before going down inside the box but referee Steven Gregg waved away the appeal.
Ballymena settled well, however, it was the Bannsiders who grabbed the lead via a Stephen Lowry penalty inside the opening ten minutes. Initially, Eoin Bradley was fouled by Scot Whiteside and the referee wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
Moments later, James McLaughlin squandered a great chance to put Coleraine further ahead as he was put through on goal by Bradley. However, with goal in his sight, the striker put his attempt over the crossbar. Tony Kane tried his luck for the home side in the 23rd minute after picking the ball up from Jude Winchester but his effort sailed over.
On 33 minutes, Coleraine had the ball in the net as a smart free-kick from Lowry found Bradley inside the box but his effort was ruled out for offside. Former Coleraine striker Joe McCready missed a glorious chance to level the scores on 36 minutes. Tony Kane’s free-kick forced Chris Johns to parry the ball directly back into the danger zone where McCready pounced but his left-footed attempt went over the crossbar.
Four minutes from the interval, James McLaughlin almost doubled Coleraine’s lead with an acrobatic overhead-kick which left Glendinning scrambling but the effort eventually trickled wide.
At the half-time interval, the Bannsiders were ahead as Lowry’s strike proved decisive. However, there was little between the sides at the break as both teams enjoyed spells of possession in midfield.
The second half started quietly for a derby affair and it was the home side that almost pulled level on 56 minutes. A Tony Kane corner caused havoc in the box as Coleraine failed to clear before an effort was struck towards goal. However, Lyndon Kane broke Ballymena hearts as he cleared the effort off the line.
The afternoon went from bad to worse for Ballymena as referee Steven Gregg dismissed manager David Jeffrey following a heated debate with fourth official Jamie Robinson. Aaron Traynor looked to have doubled Coleraine’s lead around the hour mark as his rasping drive from all of 25 yards forced Glendinning into action.
Both sides opted for change midway through the second half as Coleraine introduced Ben Doherty in place of Eoin Bradley whilst the Sky Blues switched to a back three. The move meant that Adam Lecky entered the fray to replace full-back Reece Glendinning.
The Bannsiders looked to have put the game to bed on 70 minutes as Stewart Nixon raced clean through on goal after beating his man on the halfway line. The youngster was supported by Ben Doherty but opted for the shot which was well saved by Glendinning.
From the resulting corner, Coleraine extended their lead as Josh Carson’s corner found the head of Aaron Canning and his looping header found the net to bag the central defender’s seventh goal of the season.
Ballymena huffed and puffed in the closing stages but in the end had no answer to Coleraine’s professional approach.
BALLYMENA UNITED: R. Glendinning (GK), T. Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, McCready (Knowles ‘82 mins), Winchester, Millar, R. Glendinning (Lecky ‘69 mins), Kelly (K. Kane ‘82 mins).
Subs Not Used: Williamson (GK), A. Burns, Balmer, Owens.
COLERAINE: Johns (GK), Kane, Mullan, Canning, Jarvis (O’Donnell ‘83 mins), Lowry, McLaughlin (Allen ‘79 mins), Bradley (Doherty ‘67 mins), Carson, Traynor, Nixon.
Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Douglas, McConaghie, Fitzpatrick.
Referee: Steven Gregg