DARREN McCauley’s second-half effort was enough to overcome a resilient Ballymena United and ensure that the Bannsiders remain unbeaten at home this season…
It was the home side who made all the early running and they could have taken the lead after six minutes. A sweet corner-kick delivery by Josh Carson found Stephen O’Donnell but the big central defender couldn’t find the target.
A minute later, the Stripes went on the counter attack with Stephen Dooley cutting inside and releasing the run of Jamie McGonigle. The striker timed his run to perfection and bore down on goal but his effort was saved by the legs of Ross Glendinning.
It was becoming the Glendinning show as on 10 minutes, the visitors lost possession from a free-kick and the ball landed at the feet of Eoin Bradley. ‘Skinner’ took a touch before hitting a well struck effort that had to be tipped over the bar by the former Linfield ‘keeper.
There was to be more frustration as a fantastic ball by Bradley over the Ballymena defence found McGonigle. The Northern Ireland under-21 international took a sublime touch and picked out McCauley, but the winger sent his effort over the crossbar.
On 37 minutes, Dooley and McCauley combined down the left-hand side and the former’s cross landed at the back post to Lyndon Kane. The full-back latched onto the ball and sent in a fizzing daisy cutter that was deflected narrowly wide by a Ballymena defender.
The home side would have two penalty shouts before the break as McGonigle and Jim Ervin tussled inside the area, before Kyle Owens seemed to have shoved Dooley as the winger was about to latch onto the ball. Both incidents were waved away by referee Keith Kennedy.
The deadlock was finally broken on 56 minutes as McCauley in familar fashion darted in from the left-hand side before firing a low effort into the bottom corner that left Glendinning with no chance. It was the midfielder’s 17th goal of an impressive season and the Bannsiders’ 100th goal in all competitions.
Oran Kearney’s men will feel they should have had the game dead and buried on 70 minutes as McCauley and Aaron Traynor played a neat one-two inside the area, but the midfielder failed to find the target. On 77 minutes, a fantastic ball by O’Donnell found Aaron Traynor who sent an effort over the bar as the home side chased a killer second goal.
The Bannsiders would nearly rue those missed opportunities as Tony Kane bent a free-kick narrowly wide on 90 minutes. The game would end on a sour note for the Stripes as Josh Carson was dismissed for a tackle on Willie Faulkner, before Chris Johns was called upon to tip over Stephen McAlorum’s effort.
All in all, a deserved three points for Oran Kearney’s side who still trail Crusaders on goal difference at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Harkin, McCauley, Bradley (Burns ‘65 mins), Carson, McConaghie, O’Donnell, Traynor, McGonigle (Parkhill ‘75 mins), Dooley.
Subs Not Used: Mullan, Douglas, Smith.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Glendinning, Kane, Owens, McAlorum, Friel, Braniff (Millar ‘76 mins), Burns (Flynn ‘63 mins), Shevlin, Ervin, McCaffrey (Faulkner ‘64 mins), Quigley.
Subs Not Used: McCracken, Nolan.