Sports Direct Premiership: Matchday 23

Ballymena United 3 - 1 Coleraine
26 Dec 2023 - 15:00Ballymena Showgrounds

COLERAINE would suffer Boxing Day heartache as they were beaten by Ballymena United…

On a crisp day on Warden Street, both teams would go close inside the opening 20 minutes as Conor McKendry was denied by Sean O’Neill when through on goal, before Steven McCullough saw his close range free-kick clip the crossbar.

More chances would come and go for both teams as Fraser Taylor sent an effort inches by the far post, whilst at the other end, Andy Mitchell could only fire his attempt wide when on the slide.

After Johnny McMurray had a low effort saved, Coleraine would take the lead on 33 minutes. A corner-kick into the box was headed into the back of the net by Dean Jarvis for his third goal of the season.

The Bannsiders’ lead would quickly be extinguished early in the second-half as United equalised. A delivery into the box was met by the head of an unmarked McMurray to make it 1-1 on 47 minutes.

The Stripes would have Gareth Deane to thank on 69 minutes as he made a crucial save to thwart Noah Stewart’s low strike after Coleraine lost possession deep in their own half.

On 74 minutes, Ballymena would take the lead themselves as quick play involving Ryan Waide allowed the striker to play through fellow substitute Stewart. The teenager was left unmarked inside the area and he found the back of the net.

Coleraine brought on Stephen Lowry, Ciaran O’Hara, Michael McCrudden and Lee Harkin to get back into the contest but they would suffer a blow as Conor McKendry received a straight red card for a challenge on McCullough.

As Coleraine pushed forward late into stoppage time, they would be caught on the counter as David Taylor released Stewart and he had all the composure to make it 3-1 to Ballymena with the last kick of the match.

BALLYMENA UNITED: O’Neill, Nelson, Whiteside, McCullough, F. Taylor, McGrory (Waide ’70 mins), McMurray (D. Taylor ’81 mins), Boyle, Place, McAuley, Westendorf (Stewart ’46 mins).

Subs Not Used: Johnston (GK), O’Boyle, Murray, Crawford.

COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, D. Jarvis, A. Jarvis, McKendry, Farren, Glackin (Lowry ’77 mins), Cole (Harkin ’77 mins), O’Mahony (McCrudden ’87 mins), Mitchell (O’Hara ’82 mins), Scott.

Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Devine, Gaston.

Referee: Ian McNabb