Goalkeeper Brian Neeson was the Carrick Rangers hero in last night’s Toals Bookmakers county Antrim Shield first round tie at the Bangor Fuel Arena.
The agile shot stopper not only saved two spot kicks in a dramatic penalty shootout, but he stepped up to ram home the crucial winner!
Mark Surgenor, Aaron Harmon, Ryan Kane had all been successful before Neeson produced his party piece.
Bangor, last season’s beaten Shield finalists replied through Mark Cooling and Dean Youle, but Neeson produced two super stops from Dominic Melly and Andy Long.
Following 110 minutes of graft and commitment from both teams, it was always going to take a shootout to separate the teams.
It looked so good for Carrick when Joe McNeill shot them into a first half lead, but that advantage was wiped out by Richard Gibson after the break.
It was the visitors who roared from the blocks with Mark Miskimmin’s neat turn creating the chance for Conor McCloskey, who fired wide.
McCloskey then forced Bangor goalkeeper Chris Johns, son of rugby legend Paddy, into action with a stinging free kick after Thomas Wray’s late challenge on Miskimmin.
But Bangor responded on 22 minutes. The lively Stephen Curry picked the pocket of defender Aaron Traynor before sending Andy Morrow clear, but the striker could only blast hopelessly over the crossbar when he should have really hit the target.
The home side were made to pay for that miss as Rangers swept into the lead 60 seconds later.
They produced a piercing move, involving Aaron Smyth, Gary Browne and skipper Aaron Harmon. And, when Miskimmin’s cute flick picked out McNeill, he curled a beauty beyond the diving hand of Johns.
They almost did it again two minutes later with Miskimmin cutting in from the left before letting fly, but Johns got down smartly to save.
Seasiders boss Garth Scates attempted to inject fresh impetus into his side, introducing Richard Gibson and Dominic Melly, for the ineffective Ethan Boylan and Gerard McMullan at half time.
But it was Rangers who almost grabbed a second goal on 54 minutes when the hard working Harmon took off on a sizzling solo dash before firing straight at Johns.
But that change did pay a dividend for Bangor on 62 minutes when Gibson showed a nimble touch inside the box before ramming a wonderful effort past Neeson.