TWO goals in the final three minutes for Larne saw them seal victory in an opening night cracker as Tiernan Lynch’s men ran out 4-2 winners against Coleraine.
In a game which ebbed and flowed, it was former Bannsider Ben Doherty who popped up two minutes from time to fire Larne in front on 88 minutes before sub Lee Lynch sealed the points in stoppage time.
Before this Kofi Balmer opened the scoring in the first half, only for Coleraine to turn the game on its head with a goal apiece from Aaron Traynor and Matthew Shevlin.
Larne levelled quickly thanks to Davy McDaid, before the late goals sealed it.
Lynch handed five of his new recruits their league debut, while Coleraine had Rodney Brown and Conor McKendry making their league debuts.
The first opportunity of the game fell the way of the visitors, with McKendry quick off the mark against his former side.
The diminutive winger had a go from 25 yards, but his shot drifted a few yards wide of Rohan Ferguson’s left-hand post.
Larne themselves threatened five minutes later when defender Cian Bolger, signed from Northampton in the summer, headed just over the crossbar from Ben Doherty’s corner.
The best chance of the opening exchanges arrived with 15 minutes on the clock. Jamie Glackin did well to beat Jeff Hughes to the ball in midfield and ran at the heart of the Larne defence before slipping the ball to Aaron Traynor on his left.
Traynor’s cross was met by Matthew Shevlin six yards out, but goalkeeper Ferguson made himself big to deny the striker at point blank range.
The game’s opening goal arrived on 32 minutes, but not before a stunning save from Coleraine goalkeeper Gareth Deane.
Ben Doherty dug out a cross on the right flank which was met by the head of Mark Randall and his top corner-bound header was somehow kept out by Deane at full stretch.
From the resulting corner, however, Doherty’s pinpoint cross was met by the head of Kofi Balmer to score the season’s first goal – just as he had done last season when playing for Ballymena United.
Larne had a great opportunity to double their lead at the start of the second half, with Deane once again producing the goods in the Coleraine goal.
This time the former Linfield stopper got down low to his right, after Mark Randall dug out a low shot from inside the penalty area.
It was to prove costly as Coleraine equalised with 51 minutes gone. A good move up the right flank saw Lyndon Kane cross for to his opposing full-back Aaron Traynor to head home for the equaliser.
Shortly before the hour mark there was a flare-up in front of both benches. Davy McDaid was booked for a late challenge on the halfway line, with the resulting fracas leading to Winkie Murphy and Tim McCann being sent off from either bench.
A new season has seen many of the restrictions lifted and the game was played in front 2,000 fans, which led to a charged atmosphere under the lights.
It was the Coleraine fans who were celebrating next when they took the lead on 68 minutes. Conor McKendry’s free-kick from deep on the left was met at the back post by Mathew Shevlin and his header had enough power to beat Ferguson and go in off the crossbar.
The lead lasted just four minutes however. A corner at the other end was only partially cleared as far as Cian Bolger who cross to Jeff Hughes and the captain headed across the face of goal for McDaid to tap home the equaliser.
From here it was the home side who were pushing to win it and that’s exactly what they did.
Dean Jarvis surged down the left and his crossed was half cleared to Doherty on the edge of the box. He has the presence of mind to take a touch and rifle past a helpless Dean into the bottom right corner.
Two minutes later he showed the same composure to help substitute Lee Lynch spring the offside trap and send the midfielder clear. The former Sligo Rovers mad showed a cool head to chip the onrushing Deane to seal the points.
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Herron, Nasseri (’81 Lynch), Randall (’90 Mitchell), McDaid (’90 Lusty’), Doherty, Bolger (’83 Watson), Cosgrove, Hughes, Jarvis
Unused subs: Argyrides, Kelly, Scott, Lusty
Coleraine: Deane, Kane, Brown, Jarvis, McKendry, Lowry, Tweed (89 Friel), O’Donnell, Glackin, Traynor (’88 Bradley), Shevlin (’78 McLaughlin)
Unused subs: Gallagher, Wilson, McConaghie, Kelly
Referee: Andrew Davey