Carrick Rangers moved up to 4th place in the Bluefin Sport Championship on Saturday afternoon as braces from Michael Smith and Daniel Kelly secured a win against Ballyclare Comrades.
There was only two minutes on the clock when the deadlock was broken at Dixon Park. A free-kick was awarded to the ‘Gers just outside the area and Michael Smith dispatched it into the back of the net with a sweet left-footed strike, leaving young ‘keeper Ben Fry rooted to the spot.
However, the lead would last only five minutes as a well worked move from the hosts saw Adam Gray go one-on-one with Aaron Hogg and confidently find the bottom corner with his side-footed shot to level proceedings.
Then on the 20th minute, a foul on Stewart Nixon inside the area gave Rangers the chance to re-gain their lead; Smith made no mistake, sending Fry the wrong way from the spot for his second of the afternoon.
It was a case of déjà vu soon after as another foul on Nixon inside the box gave Smith the chance of a hattrick from the penalty spot. This time, the striker saw his spot-kick saved by Fry, but Daniel Kelly was on hand to poke in the re-bound and add his name to the scoresheet.
The Taylors Avenue outfit had further chances as Ashton McDermott fired over from the edge of the area before Nixon shot just wide of the post, leaving it at just a two-goal margin for the ‘Gers at the interval.
Rangers continued to go on the attack in the second half as Kelly fired a loose ball over the bar from the edge of the area.
However, Kelly then grabbed his second goal on the hour mark as he rose highest in the box to connect to Reece Neale’s corner-kick and find the net.
As the game entered its final twenty minutes, Martin Murray replaced Michael Smith however his game was short-lived as just moments following his introduction, an off-the-ball altercation between Murray and Comrades centre-half Dean Youle saw both players receive straight red cards.
Kelly thought he had grabbed his hattrick on the 80th minute as he again nodded past Fry but was adjudged by the assistant referee to have been in an offside position.
Further substitutions followed as Craig McMillen replaced Lloyd Anderson before Gary Warwick came on for Stewart Nixon as Niall Currie’s men saw out the game and collected another important three points.
Carrick Rangers: Hogg; Rodgers, Surgenor, Loughran; Chapman, McDermott, Kelly, Neale; Anderson (McMillen, 83); Nixon (Warwick, 88), Smith (Murray, 71 (Sent off, 73)).
Unused substitutes: Brennan, McCauley.