Andy's double brings closure to Mallards' nightmare week
Coleraine 1 Ballinamallard 2: Super sub Andy Crawford helped Ballinamallard emerge from their darkest day but the two-goal hero almost didn't make the squad for Saturday's trip to Coleraine.
Crawford's late double strike helped United put the pain of their 11-0 defeat by Portadown behind them and left Coleraine without a home win in the league and still searching for a victory over last season's newcomers after five attempts.
However, Crawford was a major doubt at one stage. He said: "I missed training last Tuesday with a hamstring injury but thankfully our physio worked his magic and helped me recover enough to make the bench."
Now rejuvenated, Crawford is looking ahead to a showdown with Linfield at Ferney Park this Saturday and the Shamrock Park massacre seems almost a distant memory.
"It was all about how we reacted to the defeat and we knew we had to be positive after dusting ourselves down. There is no point licking your wounds too long," he said.
Relieved manager Whitey Anderson was also smiling again.
"This was the ultimate test and the players have come through it superbly well," he said.
"I'm proud of the resolve they displayed because it was a difficult week. We talked about what had happened, what we needed to do to bring closure and how we could best move on."
Crawford got his chance to shine when striker Richard Lecky picked up an injury early in the first half and had to be replaced.
"We played with real heart and passion because we were desperate to restore some pride," said the veteran goal poacher who twice managed to beat keeper Wayne Drummond in the closing stages of a game Coleraine dominated in the second period but failed to register until after Crawford's double.
The manner in which United closed out the win pleased Anderson who admits he got a little edgy after an early penalty miss by Jason McCartney. Coleraine striker Shane Jennings upended Mark Stafford as he chased the ball in the box but from the spot kick Drummond dived low to his right to make the save.
Stephen Lowry misfired in front of goal as Coleraine threatened and striker Gary Browne saw a shot deflected wide. Winger Stephen Carson hit the crossbar for Coleraine, United keeper Alvin Rouse tipped over a Ruairi Harkin free-kick.
Lively Crawford then grabbed the contest by the scruff of the neck.
He scored his first goal with the right foot, keeping his balance when he took the ball around Drummond on the edge of the box and tucked it home from 15 yards. Minutes later Davy Kee and McCartney combined to set him up for a stunning left foot finish.
Derry GAA star Eoin Bradley marked his first appearance by bundling in a an injury time goal following good work by Aaron Canning and Carson but manager Oran Kearney was again left to rue missed chances just as he had at Dungannon the previous weekend.
"I have been trying to impress on the players how we must be more clinical in front of goal," he said. "We had so much possession and worked openings but could not make them count.
"Again we have paid the price, conceding late on to lose."