Mid and East Antrim Mayor Paul Reid was in attendance at the Ballymena Showgrounds as Ballymena United defeated borough neighbours Carrick Rangers 3-1 in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Ballymena’s Johnny McMurray caused the away side problems shortly after the kick-off with a curling shot which hit the post, before firing over after a one-handed clearing punch by Rangers’ goalkeeper Harry Doherty. Cathair Friel also threatened when he got goal-side of Paddy McNally but Doherty was able to block the shot. With 24 minutes played, Tony Kane’s effort from just outside the 18-yard box fell wide of the left post.
Andrew Mooney tried to give Carrick the lead, but was denied by United goalkeeper Ross Glendinning who spread himself well. Glendinning then gathered the ball, preventing what could have been an unfortunate own-goal, after a Rangers free-kick from distance took a touch of Joe McKinney’s head on its way through. Mooney had another attempt saved by Glendinning as the visiting striker couldn’t connect with the ball as he would have liked to.
McKinney was on the end of another unwanted deflection, this time going forward, as his shot was directed into the hands of Doherty. The Carrick goalkeeper then made a good save and collected the ball, after a cross from deep by Kane was met by Kyle Owens with a header at the back post. Eamon McAllister couldn’t have picked a better time to score for Carrick, as he swept in the rebound from a shot at the near post seconds before the end of the first-half.
Early on in the second-half Glendinning made a fine save from close range to stop Mooney doubling Rangers’ lead after finding himself 1-on-1 with the Sky Blues keeper. With an hour played Friel produced a shot from distance which dipped just seconds too late as it glided over the bar. On 72 minutes a header from Owens was again saved by Doherty in the Carrick goal.
Owens persistence paid off as he finally headed the Sky Blues level, directing the ball across goal, after the resulting corner-kick. Two minutes later, McCloskey capitalised on Doherty coming off his line to clear by scoring an audacious second goal to put the Braidmen in front. The home side’s third goal saw Gary Thompson play a diagonal ball through the penalty area for his fellow 57thminute substitute Matthew Shevlin, who helped the ball in over the line at the back post.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, McCullough, Owens, Balmer, Ervin, McCloskey, McKinney (Thompson, 57), T. Kane, McCaffrey (Shevlin, 57), Friel, McMurray
Subs not used: Brennan, McAlorum, Braniff
Carrick Rangers: Doherty, Edgar, McNally, Larmour, Chapman, Hassin, Taggart (Maybin, 78), Roy, McAllister, Mooney (Surgenor, 68), Smith (Morrow, 84)
Subs not used: Gage, Clarke
Referee: Andrew Davey