The visitors got off to the perfect start, scoring after only three minutes. Former Rangers player Kyle Cherry delivered a corner kick which was punched clear by Brian Neeson but only as far as the lurking Guillaume Keke who volleyed in to the bottom corner.
Rangers looked for an instant reply as Declan O’Brien crossed for strike-partner Tommy Elder but the latter of the pair headed wide.
Defender Paddy McNally then brought down young Ards striker Matthew Shevlin when he was through on goal, and the Carrick man was fortunate to only receive a yellow card.
Aaron Callaghan’s men continued to press for an equaliser and nearly got one in spectacular fashion as O’Brien attempted to audaciously chip visiting ‘keeper Aaron Hogg from 45 yards however his effort landed just the wrong side of the post.
At the other end Kevin Bradley’s cross was headed towards goal by Shevlin and when Neeson saved, Keke raced in for the rebound but he was denied by his own teammate in Shevlin who unknowingly blocked the shot on the line.
Midfielder Josh Doherty had a free-kick for the North Down side soon after but his effort floated comfortably into the hands of Neeson.
Great work down the left wing from Elder saw him keep the ball in play before crossing for O’Brien but the experienced Southerner saw his header land on the upper-side of the crossbar.
Soon after O’Brien saw his shot blocked by Jonny Taylor and from the resulting corner-kick, McCullough’s delivery was headed over by Elder.
With 39 minutes played, Ards doubled their lead. Keke picked up the ball from 20 yards out before seeing his shot deflect cruelly off McNally and nestle in the bottom corner.
Two minutes later and the ‘Gers had a lifeline; O’Brien laid off the ball to Martin Murray with a backheel and the former Cliftonville man made no mistake to hammer past Hogg.
On the stroke of half-time, Carrick got a vital equaliser. Martin Murray turned provider as his corner-kick was met with a stooping header from McNally, ensuring that the affairs were even at the break.
The second half was a much tamer encounter, with both O’Brien and Craig McMillen delivering dangerous crosses for their respective sides, but no-one was lurking to tap home.
Carrick’s McCullough was the next to threaten as he curled a powerful effort towards the net but his strike had too much power and sailed wide.
In the closing stages McMillen had a golden opportunity as he got on the end of David McAllister’s inviting cross but he could only scuff his effort wide of the mark, meaning that it would finish honours even at Taylors Avenue.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Smyth, McVey, McNally, McCullough, Chapman (Kelly, 82), Rice, M Murray, TJ Murray, Elder (Noble, 77), O’Brien.
Unused substitutes: Quigley, Morrow, Taggart.