Magic McCready fires Coleraine eight clear at top of the Premiership table
Coleraine 2 Ballinamallard 1
Coleraine extended their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership to eight points after they held firm to beat Ballinamallard United 2-1 at The Showgrounds last night.
It was to be a frustrating night for the Bannsiders as they didn't have it all their own way against the basement battlers.
After the first half ended without any real notable incidents, the deadlock was broken on 50 minutes when Mallards defender Colm McLoughlin scored an unfortunate own goal.
The home side doubled their lead four minutes later when Joe McCready finished inside the area after being found with a delightful through ball by Josh Carson.
The Mallards found a route back into the match on 71 minutes when Richard Clarke's free-kick was met by the head of Matthew Smyth, but they were unable to push on and find an equaliser.
The first opportunity of the match arrived on 17 minutes when former Coleraine midfielder Shane McGinty went on a strong, powerful run but his shot failed to trouble Chris Johns.
At the other end, a lovely cross from Darren McCauley arrived at the feet of Jamie McGonigle, but the striker's effort was easily gathered by Richard Brush.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
Oran Kearney's men thought they had taken the lead on 23 minutes after a poor defensive clearance was seized upon by Carson, but the winger's effort was expertly tipped over by Brush.
The home side threatened at the end of the first half as Ian Parkhill's teasing cross was just missed by a lunging Aaron Traynor.
Whatever Kearney said to his players at the break had the desired effect as Coleraine took the lead.
McGonigle's low cross forced McLoughlin into sending the ball into his own net.
On 54 minutes, the Bannsiders doubled their advantage as Carson picked out the run of McCready and the summer signing from Limavady stroked the ball past a helpless Brush.
The home side were becoming rampant and ought to have secured the three points on the hour mark but McCauley's pin-point corner-kick was headed over by Stephen O'Donnell from 10 yards.
It was a case of deja-vu moments later as once again O'Donnell was found from a corner, but he steered his volley wide.
McGonigle - who recently signed a contract extension with the club - then picked the ball up on the wing and bore down on goal. The marksman's effort looked destined to find the net, but Brush was once again there to keep out the effort.
Then Smyth connected with Clarke's cross to give the Mallards hope. The defender's header left Johns with no chance.
Instead of holding back, Kearney's table toppers should have widened their lead as Carson had a shot cleared off the line before McCauley was to suffer the same fate when McLoughlin was there to prevent the ball from going into the net.
Gavin Dykes' men had one final chance but Ryan Curran blazed over.
Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Harkin, Ogilby, McCauley, Carson, O'Donnell (McConaghie '67), Parkhill (Whiteside '73), Traynor, McGonigle, McCready (Smith '81).
Subs not used: Douglas, Kee.
Ballinamallard United: Brush, McLoughlin, Taheny (McKenna '67), Clarke, McGinty, Hutchinson (Burns 32 mins), Curran, McIlwaine, Armstrong (Martyn '80), Owens, Smyth.
Subs not used: Brownlee (GK), McCann.
Man of the match: Stephen O'Donnell
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Jamie Robinson (Portadown)