Irish Premiership: Larne close in on top-two with 3-1 win at Carrick

John Herron (left) and Andy Mitchell (right) were both on target for Larne
John Herron (left) and Andy Mitchell (right) were both on target for Larne

Larne closed to within three points of second-placed Coleraine in the Irish Premiership with a 3-1 derby success at neighbours Carrick Rangers.

Andy Mitchell's early penalty for Larne was cancelled out by Caolan Loughran's reply, also from the spot, inside the opening 20 minutes.

John Herron restored Larne's lead with a close-range volley on 34.

Substitute Conor McKendry's late breakaway goal wrapped up all three points for the visitors.

It was a sixth straight home defeat for Rangers in manager Niall Currie's 100th game in charge.

Marty Donnelly, who scored on his return from injury at the weekend, wasted a glorious chance for Larne inside the opening five minutes.

Carrick lost possession inside their own penalty area and Donnelly played a neat one-two with David McDaid but with only keeper Aaron Hogg to beat, the winger lifted his effort over the bar from eight yards.

But the opening goal did arrive on 11 minutes when Mark Randall collected a long throw into the penalty area only to find himself the meat in the sandwich between Carrick duo Kyle Cherry and Caolan Loughran.

Referee Keith Kennedy had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Mitchell drilled the ball down the middle of Aaron Hogg's goal.

Carrick's path back into the game also came from the penalty spot on 18 minutes and it owed much to the perseverance of Lloyd Anderson.

The midfielder chased a seemingly lost cause as Albert Watson attempted to shepherd the ball out of play for a goal kick and forced the Larne defender to make challenge which referee Kennedy deemed a foul.

Larne goalkeeper Conor Devlin dived the right way but could do nothing about the accuracy of Loughran's penalty as it nestled in the corner of the net - the big defender's sixth successful conversion from the spot this season.

Substitute Conor McKendry wrapped up Larne's victory with a late breakaway goal
Substitute Conor McKendry wrapped up Larne's victory with a late breakaway goal

Larne regained the lead on 34 minutes when full-back Graham Kelly dug out an excellent cross from the left and John Herron arrived from midfield to volley home from six yards at full stretch.

A disappointing second half offered little in the way of clear-cut chances with Jordan Gibson failing to put a free header from Kyle Cherry's cross on target, while a Loughran free kick was accurate but lacked the power to beat Devlin.

At the other end, Albert Watson was left frustrated when his downward header from a Randall corner went the wrong side of the post.

Carrick fashioned another opening when Lloyd Anderson's low cross was met by a diving header from Kyle Cherry but again it was straight at Devlin.

Larne substitute Lee Lynch took advantage of a slip in the Carrick defence but with a clear sight of goal, the midfielder's shot came off Hogg's legs.

Larne clinched the victory in injury time when Carrick, throwing men forward in pursuit of an equaliser, lost possession inside their own half leading to a three-against-one Larne attack which culminated with McKendry cutting inside onto his right foot before beating Hogg with a low shot.

What they said

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch: "We knew it was going to be a really difficult game. We knew with Carrick coming off a heavy defeat on Saturday there was going to be a reaction and first and foremost we knew were going to have to roll our sleeves up if we were going to get anything out of the game.

"I thought our boys were excellent because they did exactly that. I think they were both fair decisions, probably both penalties.

"We knew Carrick were going to throw the kitchen sink at us but I thought we managed it really well. We played good football in the right areas at the right times."

Carrick manager Niall Currie: "I'm really proud of the boys. There was absolutely nothing in the game.

"We contained Larne very, very well and we looked dangerous. I think it was a case that we made three mistakes and they made one and ultimately you get punished for that against this kind of quality.

"I could ask nothing more. That is chalk and cheese from our performance on Saturday. We were back to looking strong after everybody resting.

"We had to take the hit on Saturday but we had a fresh team tonight and I don't think anybody watching that game would have seen much difference between the two teams.

"I thought our endeavour, bravery and desire was superb tonight and we're gutted with the result."