Coleraine 0-4 Ballymena United
By Paul Alexander
Ballymena United reduced the gap at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership by thrashing 10-man Coleraine on Saturday afternoon at the Coleraine Showgrounds.
United supporters experienced their first win at the Ballycastle Road venue since April 2015 as their team capitalised on Linfield’s 2-0 loss at Glenavon on Friday evening.
The home side had the first opportunity of the derby seconds after the opening whistle. Left-midfielder Ian Parkhill saw his shot pawed away for a corner by United goalkeeper Ross Glendinning. Ben Doherty delivered the ball into the box but Aaron Burns’ header dropped wide of the left post.
Johnny McMurray tried to record the opening goal on 13 minutes however his low effort was directed wide by Coleraine keeper Chris Johns. McMurray continued to look dangerous for the Braidmen and showed powerful acceleration to overtake Gareth McConaghie in the 27th minute. The centre-back was then sent-off by referee Evan Boyce for bringing McMurray to the ground.
Ballymena went in front after a third of the encounter had been played. An initial attempt by Leroy Millar was blocked before Andy McGrory nodded onto the crossbar. The rebound presented McGrory with another chance which he took as he guided the ball over the line with his head.
The Sky Blues would score their second goal five minutes after their first. Defender Kofi Balmer, playing as a right wing-back for the afternoon, crossed for Adam Lecky who headed towards goal. At first it seemed as though Johns had made a fine save, although the referee’s assistant indicated that the ball had crossed the line and a goal was awarded.
The first-half’s two goalscorers also combined with four of the opening 45 minutes remaining. Lecky played the ball to his left to McGrory but the midfielder’s tame effort was collected by Johns.
United extended their lead after four second-half minutes through McGrory’s second goal. Balmer played the ball across to McMurray whose downward header allowed McGrory to finish. The Bannsiders had another opportunity with 60 minutes played although Ben Doherty’s shot was cushioned by Glendinning.
The visitors threatened at the opposite end of the ground seconds later when McGrory curled his shot over after receiving the ball from Millar. However the 27-year-old would net his third goal to record Ballymena’s first hat-trick since November 2016. A shot from substitute Ryan Mayse was parried by Johns before McGrory scored his side’s fourth.
Coleraine: Johns, Aaron Burns (King, 19), McConaghie, O’Donnell, Mullan, Parkhill, B. Doherty, Lowry, Carson, McGonigle (McLaughlin, 64), Bradley
Subs not used: M. Doherty, Davidson, Glackin, Shiels, Burke
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Quigley, Watson, Ervin, Whiteside, Balmer, McCullough, Millar, McGrory, Lecky, McMurray (Mayse, 78)
Subs not used: Williamson, Kane, Addis, McGinty, Andrew Burns, Shevlin
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Andy McGrory (Ballymena)
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