Sports Direct Premiership: Matchday 1

Coleraine 2 - 1 Ballymena United
04 Aug 2023 - 19:45The Showgrounds

MATTHEW Shevlin’s brace sealed a 2-1 win for Coleraine over Ballymena United in the A26 derby…

By: Charlie Cooke

With five minutes of the game played, it was Andy Scott and Jamie Glackin who would combine for Shevlin who had his effort blocked.

Four minutes later, Conor McKendry picked the ball up just inside the Coleraine half and drove down the right wing, his solo run ended a couple yards outside the Sky Blues penalty area as he unleashed a venomous cross which unfortunately went just over the crossbar.

In Jim Ervin’s first game in charge, the Sky Blues broke the deadlock with 11 minutes played from a long range free-kick. A lofted ball into the area by Steven McCullough found Colin Coates who headed into the bottom to put Ballymena 1-0 ahead.

Four minutes later, Michael Place found space on the right wing, his low cross found Johnny McMurray who had his shot comfortably saved by Gareth Deane.

However, on 23 minutes, Matthew Shevlin equalised for the Bannsiders after a short corner is taken quickly which saw Glackin pass to McKendry and his cross found the striker who emphatically finished into the back of the net.

Near the half hour mark, Ballymena were awarded a free-kick just outside the Coleraine box. McCullough hit the ball low and hard to the right corner of the Coleraine goal but Deane did brilliantly to push the goal bound shot out for a corner.

On the half hour mark, McKendry cut in from the right which saw him find just enough room outside the box for a shot, but all his hard work is spoiled by the Sky Blues’ defence blocking his attempt.

As the first-half ended 1-1, no-one was left wondering if the derby was alive and well as there was a total of eight bookings shown in the opening 45 minutes, even Sky Blues boss Jim Ervin received a caution.

Coleraine made a strong start to the second-half as a piece of attacking play saw McKendry have a shot from outside the box that went off target as the ball sailed over the crossbar.

The Bannsiders were really ramping up the pressure as Lynch let fly with a thunderous effort just outside the Sky Blues penalty box which saw O’Neill move quickly to make the save.

The onslaught from the Bannsiders finally told on 61 minutes as McKendry left Michael Walsh dumbfounded through a combination of speed and trickery. The winger put a low fast cross into the box that found Shevlin at the back post who confidently made 2-1 to the Stripes with his second of the match.

Three minutes later, David McDaid chested the ball down on the right wing and carved into the box only to see his well hit shot saved by O’Neill.

With 66 minutes played, Glackin hit the post after a nice of teamwork from McKendry and Lynch found the midfielder in space for shot outside the box, however, he could only look on in anguish as the ball hit the outside of the woodwork.

As the game entered the last 20 minutes, good play by Scott saw him cut in from the left wing inside the box, resulting in a shot being palmed away by O’Neill as the ricocheting ball just evaded Shevlin.

The last action of the match saw the Sky Blues have a chance to equalise through Ryan Waide when he was found in space 20 yards out from goal but his shot was well caught by Deane.

A winning start for Coleraine who now prepare for another Friday night fixture away to Loughgall next week.

COLERAINE: Deane, D. Jarvis, Kelly, McKendry, Lowry, Shevlin (Mitchell ’88 mins), McDaid (Kane ’80 mins), O’Donnell, Lynch, Glackin, Scott.

Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Farren, Cole, O’Mahony, Doherty.

BALLYMENA UNITED: O’Neill, Whiteside, Coates, Gawne (Walsh ’17 mins) {O’Boyle ’79 mins), Graham, Waide, McCullough, McGuigan (Murray ’86 mins), McGrory (Nelson ’79 mins), McMurray, Place.

Subs Not Used: Johnston (GK), Gibson, Tennant.

Referee: Tony Clarke