The Danske Bank Premiership title race was blown wide open at Taylor’s Avenue as battling Carrick stunned leaders Crusaders with a sensational 4-3 win.
Stephen Baxter’s side were left shell-shocked as the hosts blazed to a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Daniel Kelly, Adam Salley and Aaron Harmon. The champions pulled two back in the second half through Michael Carvill and Paul Heatley but Carrick netted a fourth when sub Ben Roy raced through to slot home.
Minutes later tempers flared and Joshua Robinson and Harmon saw red after a melee, while Carrick boss Gary Haveron was also given his marching orders. An Aaron Smyth own goal was mere consolation for the Crues.
The result sees Carrick jump a point above Ballinamallard in the relegation scrap, and hands Linfield a huge chance to close the gap at the top to two points when they face Whitey Anderson’s men on Thursday.
The hosts took an early lead when Kelly steered past Sean O’Neill and on the half-hour Linfield loanee Salley stunned visiting fans when he slammed in his first goal for Carrick.
Rangers were in dreamland on 36 minutes when Salley turned provider, showing a clean pair of heels to Colin Coates before teeing up Harmon who fired in from close range.
The Crues pulled one back on 56 minutes when sub Carvill headed home and there was just a goal in it after Heatley pounced on a poor goal kick from Neeson before racing through to finish on 77 minutes.
But in a rare second-half attack, Carrick frontman Roy found himself one-on-one with O’Neill and he kept his cool to net number four.
Both sides were reduced to 10 men when Robinson and Harmon saw red, while Haveron also walked. Smyth’s own goal was scant consolation for the Crues.
Carrick: Neeson, Smyth, Traynor, Doyle, Taggart, Surgenor (McCaul 66), Kelly, Harmon, Salley (Wallace 90), Wright (Roy 80), McCloskey. Subs not used: Chines, Rice.
Crusaders: O’Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean (Mitchell 75), Clarke (Snoddy 45), Caddell, Forsythe, Heatley, Owens, O’Carroll (Carvill 45). Subs not used: Whyte, McKibbin.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)