Coleraine continued their recent dominance of ‘derby’ matches against Ballymena United by knocking their rivals out of the JBE League Cup.
In-form striker James McLaughlin scored in each half as the Bannsiders record a 2-1 victory at a wind and rain-lashed Warden Street Showgrounds.
Kyle McVey pulled a late goal back for Ballymena but it wasn’t enough to prevent their fierce rivals from progressing to the semi-finals of the competition.
Coleraine came mightily close to taking the lead in the ninth minute when Ian Parkhill pounced on a slip by United defender Gareth Rodger and rounded keeper Dwayne Nelson.
As he rolled his shot towards goal, back-tracking United skipper Jim Ervin was on hand to hook the ball off the goal-line and when the ball eventually found its way back to the winger, his follow up effort clipped the post.
But the Bannsiders did go in front four minutes later. Lyndon’s Kane’s astute ball down the right hand channel saw Jamie McGonigle beat Ballymena’s offside trap. He cut the ball back for the in-rushing McLaughlin to side-foot home via the underside of the crossbar.
Ballymena, who struggled against the blustery conditions in the opening stages, and Willie Faulkner had United’s first effort with a rising drive which went narrowly over.
Ian Parkhill was a thorn in Ballymena’s side in the opening half and he came close on 21 minutes with an instinctive first-time effort from Gareth Falconer’s cross from the left, which he guided narrowly wide.
Ballymena found it difficult to create openings but came close on 37 minutes when Tony Kane flashed a header wide from a Neal Gawley free kick.
The home side were aiming to improve after the break but the came close to falling two goals behind inside two minutes when Parkhill on the right cut the ball back for Jamie McGonigle but Nelson was quickly off his line to make a vital block.
At the other end, Steven Douglas produced a marvellous block to deny Allan Jenkins after a loose ball fell to the Scot’s feet.
Ballymena came close to an equaliser on 54 minutes when Neal Gawley’s long throw in from the right was flicked on and fell to Willie Faulkner on the edge of the penalty area but his snapshot was brilliantly fingertipped around the post by Bannsiders keeper Michael Doherty.
The keeper excelled again on 58 minutes when he reacted superbly to tip Jenkins’ flashing header over the bar from a Jim Ervin cross.
Manager Glenn Ferguson made a double change, throwing on strikers Matthew Shevlin and Darren Henderson with 20 minutes to go but just second later, Coleraine delivered a devastating blow with a second goal.
Former Ballymena striker McLaughlin beat the offside trap to run on to a through ball and as Nelson advanced from his line, the in-form striker slipped the ball under the keeper’s body to double the visitors’ advantage.
Mark Magennis came close to halving the deficit with a low shot which skidded narrowly wide.
The home side gave themselves a glimmer of hope with a minute left when Mark Magennis’ free kick was parried by Doherty but the ball fell loose for Ballymena defender Kyle McVey to blast home.
But despite a frantic finish by Ballymena, who threw men forward, the visitors held on to book their place in the last four.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Ervin, McVey, Rodger, Ruddy (sub Ferguson 77), Faulkner (sub Shevlin 69), T Kane, E Kane, Gawley (sub Henderson 69), Magennis, Jenkins. Subs (not used): McBride, Taylor.
Coleraine: Doherty, Kane, Beverland, Douglas, Falconer, Parkhill, McCafferty, Harkin, McCauley (sub Higgins 75), McGonigle (sub Brown 60), McLaughlin (sub Lyons 88). Subs (not used): Morrow, Watt.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)