BALLYMENA secured their first win on the Ballycastle Road in almost four years as they swept aside 10-man Coleraine in the third derby clash of the season…
The home side started on the front foot and almost took the lead inside the first minute as a clever cut back found Ian Parkhill inside the box but his shot was saved by Ross Glendinning. From the resulting corner, Aaron Burns nodded inches wide of the far post.
It took until the 13th minute for United to create their first chance as a clever through ball found the run of Johnny McMurray but his effort was tipped around the far post by Chris Johns. The Bannsiders would receive an injury blow on 19 minutes as Burns would have to be replaced with an ankle injury.
For the fourth successive match against Ballymena, the Stripes would receive a red card as Gareth McConaghie – who was the last defender – was adjudged to have fouled McMurray as he bore down on goal. That blow was further compounded on the half hour mark as United took the lead as Andy McGrory headed home at the second attempt after his initial effort cannoned off the crossbar.
Six minutes later, David Jeffrey’s side doubled their lead in dubious circumstances as Adam Lecky’s header was turned away from goal by an alert Johns, but the linesman adjudged that the ball had indeed crossed the line despite protests from the home support.
The result was put to bed four minutes after the interval as a long ball by Kofi Balmer was flicked on by McMurray into the path of McGrory. The former Glenavon man hit an instinctive first time effort into the bottom corner to extend United’s advantage.
Coleraine brought on James McLaughlin to try and force a way back into the match but it was the visitors who almost grabbed a fourth as a powerful drive from Steven McCullough forced Johns into action.
However, the fourth did arrive on 88 minutes as McGrory completed his hat-trick as he steered home after Johns initially made a smart save to prevent Ryan Mayse from scoring.
All in all a bad day for the Bannsiders who must now regroup for the final two fixtures before the post-split games commence.
COLERAINE: Johns, Mullan, Lowry, Bradley, Carson, McConaghie, Burns (King ’19 mins), O’Donnell, Parkhill, McGonigle (McLaughlin ’64 mins), Doherty.
Subs Not Used: Doherty (GK), Burke, Davidson, Glackin, Shiels.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Glendinning, Quigley, Whiteside, McCullough, McGrory, Balmer, Ervin, Lecky, Millar, McMurray (Mayse ’78 mins), Watson.
Subs Not Used: Williamson (GK), Kane, Addis, McGinty, Burns, Shevlin.
Referee: Evan Boyce