Ards 0-4 Carrick Rangers
A great team performance from the 'Gers saw two goals either side of the half earn a first win of 2017.

With a quarter of an hour played, debutant Declan O’Brien clipped the ball into the box and after Daniel Kelly’s header was unknowingly saved by Aaron Hogg, Eamon McAllister was on hand to net against his former employers.

 

The hosts looked to hit back immediately as a foul from Paddy McNally gave former Leyton Orient man Josh Doherty a free-kick 25 yards out, but his effort was comfortably held by Brian Neeson.

 

Doherty tried his luck again as he was afforded time and space to let fly from distance, and this time Neeson was forced into tipping the powerful strike over the bar.

 

Then, somewhat against the run of play, Rangers added a second. McAllister’s corner-kick was headed away by Emmet Friars but Sean Noble was lurking on the edge of the area to control before firing a ferocious strike through a crowd of bodies to find the bottom corner for his first Carrick goal.

 

Colin Nixon’s men were unable to respond, as the Taylors Avenue outfit took a 2-0 lead in at the interval.

 

The East Antrim side continued their attacking dominance as the second half commenced, and Seanna Foster’s cross to the back post was so nearly met by a Kelly header.

 

Ards then nearly halved the deficit as Carl McComb ran through one-on-one, but Neeson did well to use his trailing leg to deny a goal.

 

O’Brien and Adam Salley both made good runs through the middle which would’ve seen them in one-on-one, but on each occasion the assistant referee flagged for offside.

 

Former ‘Gers player Kyle Cherry nearly came back to haunt his old team as he skilfully turned his man, but the resulting shot was high and wide to the relief of the visiting spectators.

 

On the hour mark Aaron Callaghan made his first substitution as Martin Murray replaced Mark Clarke.

 

And minutes later the third Rangers goal arrived. Substitute Martin Murray started the move as he switched the play to Noble on the right-wing who beat Michael Ruddy before finding O’Brien at the back post who nodded in. Friars tried to clear but Salley made sure by hammering in, however O’Brien’s initial header had crossed the line to give the Southerner a goal on his first start.

 

O’Brien was instrumental in goal number four too, as he burst into the box before being dragged down by Johnny Taylor. Martin Murray took the responsibility from the spot, and calmly sent Hogg the wrong way.

 

TJ Murray came on to replace the impressive O’Brien with 15 minutes left, and five minutes later Nathan McConnell replaced Adam Salley as the away side strived for more goals.

 

Martin Murray dragged a shot from distance wide of the mark, before a loose ball in the box found McConnell but Hogg was quick off his line to smother the striker’s shot. The game ended with a 4-0 victory for Carrick, in a superb team performance which could have massive implications in the ultimate fight for survival.

 

Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Foster, Surgenor, McNally, Smyth, Noble, Kelly, Clarke (M Murray, 61), McAllister, Salley (McConnell, 80), O’Brien (TJ Murray, 74).

 

Unused substitutes: Chapman, Morrow.

updated: 04 February 2017
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LEAGUE TABLE

 TeamPldWDLFAPts
 Linfield 38 27 8 3 87 2489
 Crusaders 38 27 6 5 83 3687
 Coleraine 38 18 11 9 56 4265
 Ballymena United 38 18 5 15 74 7359
 Cliftonville 38 17 7 14 55 5058
 Dungannon Swifts 38 14 10 14 67 5952
 Glenavon 38 13 13 12 55 5552
 Ards 38 13 8 17 61 7047
 Glentoran 38 12 10 16 45 5346
 Ballinamallard United 38 10 5 23 45 7235
 Carrick Rangers 38 5 7 26 31 7822
 Portadown 38 7 4 27 28 7513