Bannsiders click up the gears to cut gap at top
A dominant second-half performance from Coleraine saw them close to within two points of Danske Bank Premiership leaders Crusaders as they secured victory over Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park last night.
The sides shared four goals in the first half with Ryan Curran converting two penalties for the bottom-placed Mallards while Josh Carson and Darren McCauley were on target for Oran Kearney's Bannsiders.
But a second-half Eoin Bradley double and a first goal for the club by Aaron Burns four minutes after coming onto the pitch secured three vital points for the away side as they finished up 5-2 winners.
The first half was an entertaining affair with both sides denied by the woodwork in the early stages.
Carson's thumping 25-yard effort for the visitors hit the crossbar in the seventh minute while at the other end Stephen O'Flynn turned and clipped the post with a shot four minutes later.
The Bannsiders were enjoying more of the possession and Bradley had an attempt saved by 17-year-old debutant Joshua Brownlee in the Mallards goal.
It was the home team, though, who were to go on and take the lead in the 33rd minute.
Curran fed Jonathan Leddy on the left-hand side of the box and he was upended by Carson, with referee Lee Tavinder awarding a penalty.
And Curran made no mistake from the spot as he smashed the ball down the middle to make it 1-0.
There was an impressive response, however, from Coleraine with Jamie McGonigle hitting the upright after a mix-up at the back by the Mallards before Carson atoned for giving away the penalty by scoring the equaliser in the 38th minute.
McCauley's cross to the back post was headed back across goal by Bradley and Carson made no mistake to nod home from close range.
And a minute later, Coleraine had the lead as McGonigle teed up McCauley and his low shot beat Brownlee to put the visitors ahead.
There was to be a further twist on the stroke of half-time as Ballinamallard were awarded their second spot-kick of the game as Stephen O'Donnell was adjudged to have taken down O'Flynn and Curran once more confidently fired home to leave it 2-2 at the break.
Coleraine, though, were back in front just two minutes into the second half as Bradley headed home with precision from a McCauley free-kick from the left-hand side of the Mallards box.
Kearney's side controlled matters after the break and with 77 minutes on the clock they grabbed their fourth of the night to put daylight between themselves and their struggling opponents.
Bradley was fouled 25 yards from goal and the striker dusted himself down before stepping up to clip a delightful free-kick beyond Brownlee for his second of the night.
And Burns wrapped things up four minutes after coming on, to the delight of the travelling Coleraine support.
The January signing from Linfield raced in from the right and arrowed a low drive to the corner of the net to seal the points for the Bannsiders.
While Coleraine are continuing their push at the top of the table, at the other end, the defeat leaves Ballinamallard still four points adrift of Carrick Rangers.