Irish Premiership: Ballymena beat Carrick to stretch unbeaten run to 10 games and go fourth

Tony Kane
Ballymena have now gone 10 games without defeat

Ballymena United beat Carrick Rangers by a 2-0 scoreline for the third time in three meetings this season to move into fourth spot in the Irish Premiership.

A goal in each half saw David Jeffrey's side stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games.

United led at the break thanks to an own goal from Rangers' Steven Gordon.

Shay McCartan scored an individual breakaway goal to clinch the points 10 minutes from the end.

Ballymena's two-goal win, coupled with Larne's defeat at Coleraine by the same margin, sees the Sky Blues leapfrog both Cliftonville and the Inver men into fourth place, by virtue of having scored more goals than Larne.

Carrick fashioned the first chance inside the opening two minutes but Lloyd Anderson's low shot was straight at Ross Glendinning

Ballymena's first opening came on 10 minutes when Ryan Waide's clever touch set up strike partner Paul McElroy but his first time effort was turned behind by Aaron Hogg.

The Carrick keeper was in action soon afterwards but although Shay McCartan got his 25-yard free kick up and over the defensive wall, Hogg was equal to it.

With Ballymena struggling to break down a resolute Carrick defence, they were given a huge helping hand in breaking the deadlock on 35 minutes.

A good move down the left flank released Paul McElroy and the striker fizzed a low ball across the face of goal which eluded the reach of Hogg and Gordon, coming in behind him, could only turn the ball into his own net.

Carrick missed a great opportunity to level just before the interval when Anderson cut the ball back from the left for the in-rushing Jordan Gibson but Glendinning made a fine stop with his legs.

Ballymena had a chance on the hour mark but Ryan Harpur headed over Ross Redman's corner kick from six yards.

Carrick responded with a thunderous free kick from Caolan Loughran which was parried for Glendinning, who was then fouled as Rangers tried to force home the rebound.

Much of the second period was played in Ballymena's half but with Carrick pressing for an equaliser, United broke clear to score a second goal with 10 minutes left.

It came after United hacked a corner clear, with McCartan chasing a seemingly lost cause to dispossess Lee Chapman before racing clear and dinking a neat finish over the advancing Hogg.

Carrick spurned a great chance to pull one back soon afterwards when a cross from the left found Lee Chapman completely unmarked but the full-back could only volley wide.

McCartan came close to extending Ballymena's lead in the closing minutes when his follow-up effort came back off the post after his initial free kick had been blocked by Carrick's defensive wall.

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey: "I think nervy is an understatement because if we're being really honest and transparent in our analysis, Carrick were the better side. They were very much on the front foot and they came at us right from the get-go. What was pleasing from my part is that while we were under the cosh, we were very well-organised and very well-disciplined and we restricted Carrick to just one shot."

Carrick Rangers boss Niall Currie: "I thought there was absolutely nothing in the game right up to 80 minutes when they broke away again and it's our fault with regard to their second goal. Even when Ballymena went in 1-0 up at half-time, I felt a bit hard done by. It's up to us, we have to turn those type of performances - and it was a good performance - into some kind of points."

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