Andy McGrory fires Ballymena United back into the title race

Andy McGrory celebrates
Andy McGrory celebrates

Andy McGrory was the Ballymena United hero as his hat-trick against Coleraine fired the Sky Blues back into the title race.

The visitors produced a dominant display at The Showgrounds against the ten man Bannsiders, who had Gareth McConaghie dismissed before the half hour, to close the gap on Linfield to six points.

It was all Ballymena after the sending off as McGrory headed his side in front before a controversial second from Adam Lecky.

McGrory notched at the either end of the second half to complete a great day for United.

The Bannsiders started in great fashion with Ian Parkhill forcing Ross Glendinning into a great save with only 40 seconds gone.

From the resulting corner from Ben Doherty, Aaron Burns glanced a header inches wide of the far post.

Ballymena finally found their feet and carved out an opening on 13 minutes as Andy McGrory played in Johnny McMurray, but his shot was palmed away by Chris Johns.

The Bannsiders suffered a massive blow on 27 minutes as Gareth McConaghie was was shown a straight after he brought down McMurray after he had been sent through by Millar.

Three minutes later the visitors broke the deadlock as McGrory latched on to a miscued shot by Millar. His initial header came back off the cross bar, but he reacted quickest to head in the rebound.

The Sky Blues doubled their lead in controversial circumstances with 36 minutes gone.

Leroy Millar's dinked cross back into the box was headed towards goal by Lecky, Johns though looked to have clawed the ball out and away for a corner, but unbelievably the assistant referee raised his flag for the goal.

The Coleraine players were angered by the decision, especially as no Ballymena players claimed a goal.

There was no argument about the third though as McGrory grabbed his second of the game at the start of the second half.

The midfielder picked up a super knock down from McMurray to fire home from close range.

Right at the death Ryan Mayse wriggled clear of his marker before forcing Johns into a good save.

But McGrory was on hand to bundle home the loose ball and complete the rout

Coleraine: Johns, Mullan, Lowry, Bradley, Carson, McConaghie, Burns (King 19), O’Donnell, Parkhill, McGonigle (McLaughlin 64), B Doherty.

Subs: M Doherty, McLaughlin, Burke, Davidson, Glackin, Shiels.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Quigley, Whiteside, McCullough, McGrory, Balmer, Ervin, Lecky, Millar, McMurray (Mayse 78), Watson

Subs: Williamson, Kane, Addis, McGinty, Burns, Shevlin

Referee: Evan Boyce