CARRICK RANGERS 2 BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1
Veteran frontman Miguel Chines was the hero for Carrick Rangers as his stunning late overhead kick kept Gary Haveron’s men in the Premiership.
Carrick left it mightily late with Mark Surgenor’s 89th-minute header cancelling out Ivan Sproule’s first-half opener before the Portuguese striker produced a moment of magic in the dying embers of a thrilling match.
With just two points between the sides before kick-off this game had been billed as ‘Survival Saturday’ and it’s Haveron’s men who live to fight another day. Whitey Anderson’s Mallards now face a play-off against Institute.
There was an early scare for the Mallards as Carrick striker Adam Salley was allowed a free run on goal after Emmet Friars’ airshot, but the Linfield loanee fired straight at Stefan McCusker.
Carrick came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on 13 minutes but McCusker was on hand to claw away Conor McCloskey’s close-range header.
Three minutes before the interval former Northern Ireland international Sproule drew first blood with the opener. The winger latched on to Johnny Lafferty’s sliderule pass and slipped the ball under the onrushing Brian Neeson.
Carrick went in search of a response and in the final minute of the half Salley’s first-time shot from Aaron Traynor’s left-wing cross was a whisker away from finding the top corner.
It was all Carrick in the opening 15 minutes of the second session but their only pot on goal during that time was a Traynor header which blazed over the bar.
The visitors squandered a huge chance to double their advantage on 66 minutes when O’Flynn scuffed his shot wide after Surgenor made a mess of his clearance from McCusker’s long kick.
On 71 minutes Shane McCabe picked out Lafferty who flicked the ball over Traynor but his low shot was saved at the near post.
Carrick had a string of corners late in the game with their best chance falling to Chines with six minutes to go but his header was straight into the hands of McCusker.
Rangers were handed a lifeline in the 89th minute when Surgenor’s header set up a grandstand finish.
And in the 91st minute Chines, who by his own admission hadn’t been at his best, netted his 15th of the season to keep Carrick in the top flight.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Smyth, Doyle (McCaul 85), Surgenor, Traynor, Harmon, Cherry (Roy 79), Johnston (Kelly 59), McCloskey, Chines, Salley. Subs not used: Wright, Taggart.
Ballinamallard United: McCusker, Morris, Elliott, Friars, Beacom (McCartney 63), Lafferty Lecky, McCabe, Sproule (Campbell 75), O’Flynn, McKenna (Dykes 45). Subs not used: Mayse, Rouse.
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast).