Coleraine striker James McLaughlin enjoyed a mixed afternoon in the Boxing Day derby at Ballymena. The striker scored and was sent off as the Bannsiders drew 3-3 with title-chasing Ballymena United.
SUBSTITUTE Johnny McMurray scored a 90th minute equaliser to rescue a point for Ballymena United in a thrilling Boxing Day derby on Wednesday.
The Bannsiders looked to have secured all three points as the game inched its way to added time but McMurray's late volley ensured honours were even in a pulsating encounter.
Neither manager will be overly happy with the outcome: Rodney McAree disappointed his players couldn't out for a famous win, David Jeffrey unhappy that his team dropped two points in the title race.
The visitors shocked the large home support with the opening goal after nine minutes, Stephen Lowry volleying home from the edge of the penalty area.
The lead lasted barely five minutes as the home side levelled through a Cathair Friel penalty in the 13th minute.
Coleraine regained their lead just before the half hour when James Mclaughlin showed all his predatory instincts in the box to fire home following a corner.
McLaughlin went from hero to zero minutes into the second period after receiving a second yellow card from referee Arnold Hunter following a lunge on United captain Jim Ervin in midfield.
Despite this setback, the visitors increased their advantage after 65 minutes when the industrious Ian Parkhill curled in a left-footed shot from the edge of the area after being put through by Josh Carson.
Ballymena boss David Jeffrey rang the changes, emptying the bench in a bid to rescue something from the game.
Attackers Jonathan McMurray and Ryan Mayse were introduced and Mayse forced a tremendous save out of Chris Johns within moments of being introduced.
Andrew Burns, twin brother of Coleraine's Aaron, pulled a goal back in the 67th minute to instill new hope into home supporters.
And the comeback was complete on full-time when McMurray volleyed home after a corner hadn't been properly cleared by the visitors' defence.
It was a cruel end to the game for the Bannsiders but that will matter little to David Jeffrey and his players who will just be relieved to maintain their 18 game unbeaten record.
Next up for Coleraine is an away trip to Warrenpoint Town on Saturday followed by a home game against Cliftonville on New Year's Day.