With only six minutes on the clock, the ‘Gers opened the scoring. United failed to clear their lines at the back following a set-play and eventually it was Caolan Loughran who capitalised, poking the loose ball through the legs of ‘keeper Connor Brown.
Soon after, Brown punched the ball clear as far as Chris Rodgers who, from the edge of the area, sent a looping header over everyone and into the back of the net. However, referee Diarmuid Harrigan ruled it out for a push in the back during the play.
The East Antrim side kept on the front foot as Daniel Kelly’s powerful header produced a fine fingertip save from Brown to deny the midfielder.
Stewart Nixon and Lloyd Anderson linked up soon after as the former teed the ball up for the on-loan midfielder whose low strike was held by Brown.
Reece Neale then did superbly down the left flank and delivered a cross for Michael Smith who put his shot over the bar.
Smith had a further chance soon after; heading wide from a Kyle McCauley delivery in what proved to be the final opportunity of the first half.
Rangers wasted no time in the second half, grabbing their second goal less than ninety seconds after it kicked-off. Anderson received the ball from close range and produced a cool finish to slide it past Brown and into the bottom corner.
The Roesiders looked to hit back minutes later as Aaron Hogg had to be alert to push away Ryan Doherty’s strike from outside the area.
On the 64th minute, Carrick scored their third. Great skill from Nixon saw him knock the ball past a defender and then fire past Brown for his ninth goal of the season.
Substitutions followed as Denver Gage replaced Chris Rodgers while young prospect Ben Mitchell made his first team debut, with Daniel Kelly making way.
As the game entered its last five minutes, Sean Friars’ side pulled a goal back. A well struck Doherty free-kick from just outside the area found the corner of the net to beat a helpless Hogg.
Dylan Smiley finally replaced Stewart Nixon as the full-time whistle confirmed a top six place for Niall Currie’s side ahead of next month’s split, a great late Christmas present for the Amber Army!
Carrick Rangers: Hogg; Rodgers (Gage, 76), Surgenor, Loughran; McCauley, Anderson, Kelly (Mitchell, 81), Neale; McMillen; Nixon (Smiley, 90), Smith.
Unused substitutes: Malcolmson, McAlister.