Defending champions Larne cut gap on Premiership leaders Linfield to two points with victory over Coleraine

Larne's Leroy Millar scores during this evening's game at Inver Park in Larne. PIC: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Larne's Leroy Millar scores during this evening's game at Inver Park in Larne. PIC: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

With Linfield not in action due to international call-ups, the reigning champions knew the importance of picking up all three points and Joe Thomson got the Inver Reds up and running with a 12th minute header.

With both teams going close thereafter, Larne would seal the three points on 89 minutes as Leroy Millar headed in unmarked from a corner.

The Bannsiders' cause wasn't helped by two injuries in the first-half, but they did go close to equalising at 1-0 as Jamie Glackin's low drive was cleared off the line by Cian Bolger.

Tiernan Lynch unsurprisingly named the same starting eleven that beat Linfield last weekend and they took the lead with their first venture forward on 12 minutes.

A well-worked move on the left-hand side saw Sean Graham's cross being headed into the net by Thomson for the midfielder's tenth goal of the campaign in all competitions.

The Bannsiders' poor start was compounded by the loss of Matthew Shevlin and Andy Scott through injury - either side of the goal - but they did threaten when Conor McKendry's individual run and shot went over the crossbar.

On 25 minutes, Gareth Deane would be called into action as the Coleraine stopper dived low to deny Levi Ives after the ex-Cliftonville man linked-up with Thomson inside the box.

Larne controlled large spells of possession but they nearly let the visitors equalise on 34 minutes through their own mistake.

Goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson spent too much time on the ball and was robbed by David McDaid, which resulted in Glackin's strike being cleared off the line by an alert Bolger.

As the rain came down at Inver Park, Lynch brought on striking duo Lee Bonis and Andy Ryan, and it nearly proved to be a masterstroke as the latter fired wide from the former's lay-off on 58 minutes.

Just after the hour mark, the reigning champions thought they went 2-0 ahead as Ryan's pass sent Graham on his way on the left-hand side.

The 22-year-old sent a cross into the box which was headed wide by Bonis.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, both teams pushed forward and Coleraine would go close as Glackin's cross was headed over by substitute Andy Mitchell.

At the other end, a flick on by Ryan sent Bonis through on goal but the Northern Ireland international was denied by a superb stop by Deane.

However, the three points were secured with a minute remaining on the clock as a corner-kick was on the money for Millar to head home unopposed.

A solid win for Larne who hope to maintain their pursuit of leaders Linfield.