Ballymena United 0 Coleraine 1
Kyle McVey’s penalty 12 minutes from time gave Oran Kearney the fairytale start he wanted as Coleraine boss with a hard-fought win over Ballymena United.
There was little to choose between the sides at a sodden Warden Street but former Sky Blue favourite Kearney won’t mind that one little bit as the Bannsiders won a league match on their travels for the first time since November.
There was an unusual sight in attack for the visitors as Kearney, with his cupboard largely bare due to suspensions and injuries, played gangly defender Marc Mukendi alongside Leon Knight in a real little and large frontline.
Mukendi, booked for simulation in the eighth minute, was proving a real handful while Knight’s trickery put the ball on a plate for David Ogilby but the left-back headed wide of the mark with the goal at his mercy.
There was a let off for the Bannsiders in the 32nd minute when, from Michael Smith’s corner, McVey headed onto his own crossbar before David Scullion and Gary McCutcheon brought saves from Ryan Brown and Davy O’Hare in quick succession.
McCutcheon was getting joy down the left and when he latched onto Andy Smith’s through ball four minutes before the break he had the beating of the keeper but pushed wide he cut back and squared the ball for Eamonn Murray.
But in a crowded area his shot was blocked by McVey.
It was a similar tale 10 minutes into the second period when Murray linked with Andy Smith who set Aaron Boyd free in the box but just as he pulled the trigger McVey dived in for another vital interception.
McVey’s next contribution was even more crucial as he gave Coleraine the lead, with just 12 minutes to go, from the penalty spot after Scullion found Knight and Lee Colligan clumsily bundled him over inside the area.
Referee Brian Turkington had little option but to point to the spot and Bannside stalwart McVey, the best player on the pitch, confidently struck the ball down low past Brown’s despairing dive to give new boss Kearney his first Premiership win at the first attempt.
Ballymena United: Brown, M Smith, Colligan, Watson, Stewart, McCafferty, Berry (McAreavey 69), A Smith, A Boyd (M Boyd 69), McCutcheon, Murray. Subs not used: Haveron, Gage, Young.
Coleraine: O'Hare, Canning, Ogilby, Beverland, McVey, Lowry, Hegarty, Tommons, Mukendi, Knight, Scullion. Subs not used: Watt, Quinn, McIvor, Doherty, Cullen.
Referee: Brian Turkington (Belfast).