Ballymena United suffered a fifth straight loss in all competitions as they slumped to defeat against rivals Coleraine.
The Sky Blues never recovered from conceding two goals inside the opening 11 minutes as the Bannsiders avenged their defeat against Ballymena in September.
United manager Glenn Ferguson’s response to the previous Saturday’s humbling at Glentoran was to make five changes to his starting line-up with recalls for Mark McCullagh, Aaron Stewart, Brian McCaul, Gary Thompson and David Cushley.
United made a bright start and should have gone ahead inside three minutes when Gary Thompson threaded a through ball into the path of Allan Jenkins in the right hand channel. The midfielder’s shot was blocked by Steven Douglas and rolled invitingly across the face of goal but, with the goal at his mercy, the in-rushing Matthew Tipton could only fire his shot over the bar from 10 yards.
That miss was punished almost instantly at the other end as COleraine were awarded a free kick 20 yards from goal following a foul on Ian Parkhill.
Neil McCafferty curled the free kick around the wall and his effort looked to be covered by Dwayne Nelson but the ball skidded off the wet turf and the keeper could only push the ball into the net at his near post.
United were visibly rocked by that setback and worse was to follow on 11 minutes.
Mark McCullagh was dispossessed by Parkhill inside the United half and after a swift inter-change of passes, Ruairi Harkin was on hand to rifle home a low shot from 25 yards.
United attempted to find a way back into the game but they made minimal impact in attacking areas as the first half came to a close.
And the home side suffered a further blow close to the interval when they lost defender Kyle McVey, stretchered off and taken to hospital with a suspected broken ankle.
United spurned a good opening five minutes into the second period. Good work on the right by Brain McCaul saw him find Tipton and the striker played as nicely weighted pass to release Cushley on his favoured left foot but his first time effort was wide of the post.
The visitors came close to extending their lead on 55 minutes when Mark Miskimmin met McCafferty’s corner with a firm near post header but Nelson produced an excellent reflex save to keep the effort out.
Coleraine had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Raymond Hetherington after Shane McGinty tumbled under a challen ge from Aaron Stewart, while at the other end, Brian McCaul’s long-range effort was comfortably held by Doherty.
Coleraine came close to adding to their tally in the closing stages but Parkhill’s shot from Miskimmin’s cut-back was brilliantly blocked by McCaul.
Ballymena United: Nelson, McCullagh, McVey (sub Munster 45+3), Ruddy (sub Surgenor 67), Stewart, McCaul, Thompson, Jenkins, Teggart (sub Boyce 46), Cushley, Tipton. Subs (not used): Gawley, Kane.
Coleraine: Doherty, Kane, Douglas, Ogilby, Mullan, Beverland, McCafferty, Harkin (sub Hegarty 86), McGinty (sub McNeill 74), Parkhill, Miskimmin. Subs (not used): Watt, McCauley, Grissam.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).