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Ferguson sings defence's praises as Ballymena United savour derby day triumph


Ballymena's Gary Thompson celebrates at Saturday's game

Ballymena's Gary Thompson celebrates at Saturday's game

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

Ballymena's Gary Thompson celebrates at Saturday's game

Goals win games but sometimes defensive qualities are equally significant when the spoils are being dished out.

In the aftermath of a highly competitive Showgrounds derby that saw Ballymena United continue their bright start to the season by pocketing three Ballycastle Road points, the opposing managers had a different take on the outcome.

Coleraine boss Oran Kearney found defeat difficult to stomach after an impressive performance from his charges ultimately failed to gain any reward, while opposite number Glenn Ferguson admitted his defenders won the day by denying their rivals with goal-line clearances on at least four occasions.

Kearney said: "Football is all about scoring goals and while we played well we didn't put the ball in the net more than once. That's why we lost."

Substitute Michael Ruddy grabbed the winner with a glancing header on David Cushley's 77th minute corner after Gary Browne had cancelled Gary Thompson's first-half opener for United.

Two seasons back, the Sky Blues – albeit dressed in black for the occasion – lost all three derbies against their rivals. Now the tide has turned and this success not only keeps them level with Portadown at the top of the table but extends their unbeaten run against Coleraine to five games.

Ferguson, though, was honest enough to concede that his men got lucky in a performance well below par

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"It wasn't pretty but we've taken all three points and I'm not complaining about that," he said.

"We've played better in games and lost so sometimes there doesn't seem to be a lot of logic to it all."

Ferguson admitted United's success on the day was as much down to some heroic defending as the two goals.

"The players who got back on the goal-line to clear the ball really were our match winners. If they had not been there, we could easily have lost.

"Coleraine made it difficult for us but as long as we kept them out we always had a chance of getting something from the game."

Aaron Stewart, Stephen McBride and Johnny Taylor stood tall when required, ably backing up keeper Dwayne Nelson in the task to repel the Coleraine hordes, including influential midfield ace Ruairi Harkin.

Unlikely hero Ruddy was on the pitch less than two minutes when he met Cushley's corner to head in only his second ever goal for the club.

Thompson had broken the deadlock after 21 minutes, finding the net from close range at the second attempt as Coleraine's defence failed to deal with Neal Gawley's cross.

Bannsiders striker Browne scored with a left-foot finish from Ian Parkhill's super delivery into the box after 62 minutes to level it.

Like his manager, Thompson was also impressed by Coleraine's work ethic.

"I thought they were really unlucky. They played well and made it difficult for us to attack them," he said.

"Our manager was not best pleased with us at half-time because we hadn't played well even though we were in front.

"It may not have been the prettiest performance to watch but when you get the result you don't worry too much about that."

After delivering his second goal in as many games, Thompson is intent on retaining his place in the side.

"I was suspended at the start of the season after being sent off in the cup final so it took me a while to get back in and there is so much competition for places. Alan Davidson is a great talent, Michael Surgenor too and Brian McCaul has still to come into the reckoning.

"I knew I just had to be patient as the boys were flying but I think I have taken my chance and you know that if you play well the boss will keep faith with you."

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