Lyons delighted to be back to help Coleraine maintain title challenge
Carrick Rangers 1-3 Coleraine
It's often said that a player coming back from injury can feel like a new signing when winter takes grip - and Brad Lyons is certainly living up to expectation.
Coleraine's masked marksman - sidelined for six weeks after suffering two broken cheekbones in the line of duty - emerged from the bench to inspire the Bannsiders to a battling point against fellow Danske Bank Premiership title challengers Crusaders last weekend, before making a goalscoring impact as Carrick Rangers were overcome on Saturday past.
"It's been a sensational comeback so far," said Lyons, who joined Ciaron Harkin and Jamie McGonigle on the scoresheet at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
"We are facing a few suspensions now and I'm just happy to be getting back to action at an important time for us.
"We are determined to keep producing performances that will keep us challenging for the league," added 20-year-old Lyons, still sporting a protective mask over his face.
"There is a huge positive vibe around our dressing room but nobody is taking anything for granted. We still have to work hard in every game."
Coleraine were in front after just two minutes, although down-on-their-luck Carrick claimed that the throw-in which led to the opening goal should have been awarded their way.
The visitors weren't waiting round to ask any questions, though, and Aaron Traynor combined with Martin Smith to deliver a cross which Lyons knocked back for Harkin to drill past goalkeeper Harry Doherty.
The Gers didn't take long to level, though, and it was former Coleraine defender Mark Edgar who did the damage; his free-kick finding the net after Martin Maybin had been impeded by David Ogilby just outside the box.
Traynor headed Daniel Larmour's attempt off the line to preserve the stalemate while, at the other end, McGonigle was frustrated by Doherty before Darren McCauley was off target following Josh Carson's cross.
Doherty denied McGonigle again but, before the half was out, Coleraine were back in front when Lyons rose highest to nod home.
After the interval, the Bannsiders struck the woodwork in bizarre fashion - Edgar's attempted clearance cannoning off Lyons and onto the frame of the goal - and there were similar scenes when Oran Kearney's men bagged the third goal that finally killed off Rangers' resistance.
This time it was Denver Gage who smashed a clearance off Lyons' back and, after the ball had hit the bar, McGonigle was on hand to finish the job.
Manager Kearney reflected: "Carrick asked a lot of questions of us in the first 20 minutes and I'm pleased with the manner in which we dealt with that," he said.
"We were able to deal with them and find our composure. Brad's return has given us all a lift. His contribution was top rate."
Opposite number David McAlinden said: "If we can show the same attitude and endeavour in every other game then we will not be far away."
Carrick: Doherty, Chapman, Gage, Larmour, Edgar, McAllister (Mooney, 69 mins), Taggart, Hassin, Roy (Smyth, 43 mins), Smith, Maybin (Suarez, 62 mins). Unused subs: McMullan, Morrow.
Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Ogilby, McConaghie, Traynor, McCauley (Whiteside, 89 mins), Harkin, Carson (McCready, 86 mins), Lyons, McGonigle, Smith (Parkhill, 62 mins). Unused subs: Douglas, Kee.
Man of the match: Brad Lyons
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)