KYLE McVey’s penalty gave Oran Kearney a fairytale start to his reign as Coleraine boss with a dramatic win at bitter rivals Ballymena United.
The defender tucked away a spot kick with 11 minutes left to end the Bannsiders’ miserable away record and settle a low-key derby match.
It was anything but a classic but that mattered not one jot to Kearney, who celebrated his first match in charge since his weekend switch from Limavady with a victory at the club where he was a huge favourite during his playing career.
His selection of defender Marc Mukendi – jettisoned by former Bannsiders boss David Platt – as a makeshift striker was particularly surprising.
Ballymena started brightly with Ryan Berry’s cross being collected by Aaron Boyd who turned sharply but although his shot beat Davy O’Hare, it ended up hitting the side netting.
United almost took the lead in bizarre fashion on 32 minutes when Michael Smith’s corner was headed towards his own goal by Kyle McVey and the defender was mightily relieved to see the ball cannon off the crossbar and over.
McCutcheon was again involved just before the interval when he raced onto Andy Smith’s through ball and rounded O’Hare but with few options in the box, he had to delay his cross and by the time he squared the ball to Eamonn Murray,
Kyle McVey was back to block the winger’s effort. As both teams toiled in sheeting rain in the second half, clear-cut openings were few and far between.
The decisive moment came with 11 minutes remaining when referee Brian Turkington adjudged that Lee Colligan had impeded Leon Knight’s run as he attempted to reach a Scullion cross from the left.
The excellent McVey confdently tucked the spot kick low to Brown’s right to secure a famous victory for the Bannsiders.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Brown, M Smith, Watson, Stewart, Colligan, Berry (sub McAreavey 69), A Smith, McCafferty, Murray, McCutcheon, A Boyd (sub M Boyd 69). Subs (not used): Haveron, Gage, Young.
COLERAINE: O’Hare, Canning, Beverland, McVey, Ogilby, Tommons, Hegarty, Lowry, Scullion, Mukendi, Knight. Subs: Watt, Quinn, McIvor, Doherty, Cullen.
Referee: Brian Turkington (Belfast).