Andy McGrory claimed the match ball after his hat-trick (©INPHO/Jonathan Porter)
Saturday, 09 March 2019
Andy McGrory grabbed a hat-trick as Ballymena United crushed derby rivals Coleraine by four goals without reply at The Showgrounds to reduce the gap at the top back to six points.
Despite how the game ended up it was the Bannsiders that started the brighter when Ian Parkhill was denied by Ross Glendinning inside the opening minute while Aaron Burns headed just wide moments after that.
At the other end Johnny McMurray saw an effort deflected wide as both sides settled into proceedings with a succession of half chances.
However, Coleraine were dealt a blow on 27 minutes when they were reduced to ten men after Gareth McConaghie brought McMurray down as he raced through on goal.
It took Ballymena just three minutes to make their numerical advantage count when McGrory netted at the second attempt after his initial header came back off the underside of the bar.
And it was 2-0 six minutes later when Adam Lecky got the final touch to a Kofi Balmer cross despite home protests that the ball didn't cross the line.
Then, four minutes into the second half, McGrory doubled his tally and extended United's lead when McMurray headed a Balmer lob into the area into his path.
Steven McCullough might have added a fourth soon after with a stinging effort from Albert Watson's cross but keeper Chris Johns did well to save.
But Ballymena's fourth did arrive a couple of minutes from time when a Glendinning goalkick was met by Ryan Mayse who went one-on-one with Johns with McGrory on hand to tap home the loose ball after the Coleraine keeper initially saved.
Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Lowry, Bradley, Carson, McConaghie, Burns, O'Donnell, Parkhill, McGonigle, B. Doherty subs M. Doherty (not used), McLaughlin (replaced McGonigle 64), Burke (not used), Davidson (not used), Glackin (not used), Shiels (not used), King (replaced Burns 19)
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Quigley, Whiteside, McCullough, McGrory, Balmer, Ervin, Lecky, Millar, McMurray, Watson subs Williamson (not used), Kane (not used), Addis (not used), Mayse (replaced McMurray 78), McGinty (not used), Burns (not used), Shevlin (not used)
Referee: Evan Boyce