Coleraine were given one of the sternest tests of their North West Premiership campaign so far by bottom of the table Bready on Saturday.
The Bannsiders eventually prevailed by 13 runs at Sandel Lodge, largely thanks to key contributions from Niall McDonell with the bat and professional Kylinn Vardhan with the ball.
It all started well enough for the leaders, McDonnell and Scott Campbell posting a half-century stand for the first wicket. At 113 for one, they looked poised for a big score but then a clatter of wickets hindered their progress and brought Bready right back into the match.
David Rankin (2-37) removed Vardhan lbw for just a single as four wickets fell for just 13 runs and Coleraine slumped to 125 for five. McDonnell, who struck 12 boundaries in a superb 76 from 99 balls, was one of those casualties, bowled by Michael Loubser (3-40).
But for the umpteenth time in his career Gordon Cooke (35 no) dug his team out of trouble as he marshalled the Coleraine lower order past 200.
Coleraine reached 210 for eight but rain again after tea saw the equation adjusted to 203 in 45 overs. Bready made a real fist of it before coming up marginally short.
The early loss of Brian Crumley (0) and then crucially Rankin, bowled by Jarred Barnes for 10, saw the visitors reduced to 12 for two but Loubser (37) and David Barr brought them back into the game with partnership of 58 for the third wicket.
South African Loubser struck six fours and a six in his 37 at exactly a run-a-ball but he couldn’t deliver the big score Bready so badly needed as he was dismissed by Cooke (2-19).
Andrew Austin tried manfully to get Bready towards the target but he was eighth man out for 41 as they were dismissed for 189. Vardhan (4-42) was the pick of the Coleraine attack as they made it eight wins from eight league starts.
Donemana warmed up for next weekend’s Danske Bank cup final with a straightforward win at home to St Johnston. The visitors were gifted 33 wides by the wayward Donemana bowling but they could still only make 96 in little more than 25 overs. William McClintock (3-12), Jan Frylinck (3-23) Ritchie McBrine (2-17) and William McBrine (2-8) did the damage for the cup finalists.
Donemana’s reply wasn’t convincing as they lost four wickets, but 44 from Frylinck and an unbeaten 25 from Kyle Dougherty ensured there was absolutely no cause for alarm ahead of Friday’s showpiece against Eglinton.
Donemana remain just about in the title race, but they have no margin for error as Coleraine continue to set the pace.