Ballymena United 3-0 Carrick Rangers
A second half performance from the Braidmen which was inspired by Kevin Braniff saw Carrick Rangers fall victim to a 3-0 defeat at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

The Sky Blues almost took an early lead as Aaron Smyth gifted possession to Joe McKinney whose through ball found the run of Matthew Shevlin, but the young striker stroked the ball past the post.

 

Chris Morrow then crafted an opening as his pass from the right found Ryan Nimick in space in the area, however the midfielder failed to hit the target.

 

Seconds later Shevlin found strike-partner Braniff with a low cross but the veteran skied his close-range shot.

 

‘Gers forward Andrew Mooney then tried his luck as he curled an effort just over the bar from 20 yards.

 

The best chance of the half fell to Carrick on the 33rd minute as Lee Chapman picked out the unmarked Nimick who was denied by a fine fingertip save by Ross Glendinning.

 

Ex-Rangers player Conor McCloskey threatened next as his low shot had to be pushed past the post by ‘keeper Harry Doherty in what was to be the final action in a scoreless first half.

 

The Taylors Avenue men had the first chance of the second period as Andrew Mooney’s near-post strike was gathered by Glendinning.

 

With 58 minutes played, the hosts took the lead. A long-throw from McCloskey was headed on by Kyle Owens and it was Braniff who popped up to nod past Doherty.

 

Mark Surgneor then entered in place of Chris Morrow as David McAlinden’s side went in search of an equaliser.

 

It was to no effect however, as United doubled their advantage with twenty minutes remaining. A piece of individual skill from Braniff saw him flick the ball over the head of Mark Edgar before coolly hammering the ball into the bottom corner on the half-volley.

 

A few minutes later, Eamon McAllister replaced Aaron Smyth as Carrick looked for a way back into the game.

 

McCloskey then capitalised on a mistake by the debuting Damian McNulty to race through one-on-one but squandered his opportunity as he hit wide of the target.

 

As the final ten minutes approached, Ben Roy came on for Ryan Nimick.

 

Braniff nearly secured his hattrick as he thundered an effort towards goal but Doherty was comfortable in palming the ball away.

 

With the last kick of the game, David Jeffrey’s men added a third. William Faulkner pulled the ball back for Shevlin whose shot seemed to deflect off Denver Gage and end up in the bottom corner, wrapping up another frustrating 90 minutes for the ‘Gers.

 

Carrick Rangers: Doherty; Smyth (McAllister, 76), Gage, McNulty, Edgar; Chapman, Taggart, Morrow (Surgenor, 65), Smith; Nimick (Roy, 79), Mooney.

 

Unused substitutes: Hassin, Magill.

updated: 13 January 2018
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LEAGUE TABLE

 TeamPldWDLFAPts
 Crusaders 38 28 7 3 106 3891
 Coleraine 38 26 11 1 76 3189
 Glenavon 38 19 12 7 85 5269
 Linfield 38 20 7 11 72 4667
 Cliftonville 38 20 5 13 68 4565
 Glentoran 38 14 9 15 52 5251
 Ballymena United 38 14 6 18 53 6548
 Dungannon Swifts 38 13 6 19 42 6245
 Ards 38 12 4 22 42 7440
 Warrenpoint Town 38 8 6 24 52 8630
 Carrick Rangers 38 6 5 27 31 7823
 Ballinamallard United 38 5 8 25 39 8923