Derby win was 'just rewards' for near misses, says Ballymena United boss Jim Ervin as captain Colin Coates undergoes successful surgery

Ballymena United ace Alexander Gawne celebrates scoring against his former club at The Showgrounds (Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)
Ballymena United ace Alexander Gawne celebrates scoring against his former club at The Showgrounds (Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)

A goalless first-half wouldn't be without its controversy as Matthew Shevlin was dismissed for a high tackle on Sean O'Neill.

The Sky Blues would make their extra man count after the break as Noah Stewart scored a quick-fire brace, and despite the Bannsiders halving the deficit through Josh Carson's penalty, the home support would finally celebrate a victory as Alexander Gawne rifled home in stoppage time.

"It's not good for the heart rate but thankfully we got the third goal then and were able to settle for the last couple of minutes of the game," Ervin said.

Overall, I'm absolutely over the moon for the boys.

"The amount of work that they have put in and so far this year we haven't got our just rewards.

"We said when we came in that we need to make this place difficult for teams to come to.

"Thus far that hasn't been the case - we've lost every game.

"So it was important to try and bounce back from last week but also try and make this place a bit more difficult for opponents coming here."

Teenager Stewart would go home with the majority of the plaudits with two excellent executed finishes, and Ervin recalls how the striker is proving his doubters wrong which includes the Ballymena chief himself.

"We had chances and then Noah from nowhere puts it in the back of the net and you're just thinking 'my word',” he added.

"He's so hard working - even in training he's so difficult to play against.

“We'll keep his feet on the ground because the more goals he scores like that he's going to be talked about and people are going to catch on to him.

“He knows that there's a lot of hard work needs to be done to continue to stay at the level he's at this moment in time.

"We had him in the County Antrim SuperCup squad.

“Actually, we left him out and had him on standby, something we've joked with him since he's come in.

“He’s stuck two fingers up to us for not picking you but it just goes to show you the mentality of the kid.

“There were disappointments as a youngster but he's played on it and he's pushed himself to the level he's at now.”

Ervin also confirmed that club captain Colin Coates has had surgery following a knee injury sustained in the recent defeat at Crusaders.

“It's going be a long lay-off so we'll see how he settles down over the next week or two,” he continued.

“Once he starts his rehab with ourselves we'll have a wee bit more of an indication as to the length of the time he's going be out.

“From this moment in time it's going to be a lengthy spell on the sidelines for him.

“Everybody's different in how the body heals.

“Coatesy a top pro' and does things by the book if he does things right we'll see him, hopefully, in a sky blue shirt again before the end of the season.”