Coleraine stretched their unbeaten run against Ballymena United to 11 games and for Oran Kearney it was another derby day to remember.
The Bannsiders boss has yet to come out on the wrong side of a clash against their rivals from down the A26 and there was little chance of that statistic coming under threat after a dominant display at Warden Street.
After a scrappy start to a game that should have witnessed a goal 13 seconds in when United’s teenage top scorer Jamie Davidson burst through only to pull his shot wide of the mark, the visitors eventually grabbed the game by the throat and strangled the little fight they encountered from the Sky Blues.
It is worrying times for Glenn Ferguson who has watched his team lose six league games on the bounce and the feel-good factor of the Co Antrim Shield triumph seems a dim and distant memory now.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Ferguson knows what he needs now are hardy souls to join the fight and with that in mind he confirmed last night that Shane Dolan would join the club from Donegal Celtic at the start of the transfer window.
“It’s no secret we’re not scoring enough goals to win matches and that needs to change sooner rather than later,” explained the United boss.
“There were some decent performances out there; decent not good, and Dwayne Nelson saved us from a drubbing but there were others who just didn’t step up to the mark.
“I said in the dressing room it was like rabbits caught in the headlights.
“We haven’t got enough quality and in winning the Co Antrim
Shield we probably over-achieved and people were expecting too much.
“Shane has agreed to come and by all accounts we fought off a bit of competition and we hope he’s what we’re looking for.
“He’s a big, strong centre-forward, a good finisher and can bring people into play.”
Coleraine grabbed the lead five minutes before the break, David Scullion bursting through a watching home defence, before exchanging passes with Curtis Allen and then coolly dispatching the ball low and hard past Nelson from just inside the box.
A second goal arrived after 57 minutes and it was all too easy for the Bannsiders. Skipper David Ogilby rose unmarked to meet Ryan McIlmoyle’s corner and although Nelson palmed it away, Allen had all the time in the world to tap home the rebound.
Then came a crazy two minutes for the home keeper, pulling off a world class one-handed save to deny Allen’s header, scrambling off his line to block from Ruairi Harkin and then having to face Allen again from 12 yards after Scullion gratefully took advantage of Aaron Stewart’s dangling leg.
Allen hammered the resultant penalty straight down the middle where Nelson had held his ground and he smothered the shot but it mattered little as the visitors ran down the clock for the most comfortable of derby wins.
“Today was about courage and yes there’s courage in tackles and to be physical but there’s also courage to go and get on the ball,” explained an ecstatic visiting boss Kearney.
“In derbies it’s not about hitting tackles, but can you get yourself free and do something courageous with the ball and David Scullion and Ruairi Harkin were just fantastic at that.
“They wanted the ball at every opportunity in any area of the pitch and there was an air of calmness about them that spread throughout the side.”
BALLYMENA UNITED: Nelson, Rodgers, Black, Munster, Stewart, Taggart (Surgenor 60), Thompson, Jenkins, McCabe (Costello 46), Davidson (N Lowry 60), Cushley. Subs not used: Teggart, Duffin.
COLERAINE: Doherty, Beverland, McIlmoyle, Ogilby, Canning, Hegarty, Scullion (Bradley 90), S Lowry, Allen (Jennings 85), Harkin (Owens 82), Boyce. Subs not used: Watt, Boyd.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).