A blank scoreline can quite often signify a boring and negative encounter between two teams both more determined to avoid defeat than to provide entertainment to their supporters. But this Senior 2 encounter between league leaders Rainey and underdogs Carrick contained all the intensity and thrills of a high-scoring cup final.
With Carrick having suffered the ignominy of a 5-0 defeat in Magherafelt earlier in the season, they would have had every right to think defensively in the return fixture and limit their attacking activities.
And the visitors, while not expecting an easy game, should have been confident of taking all three points to maintain their six-point lead at the top. But right from the opening whistle both teams were in full attacking mode as the game swept breathtakingly from end to end.
Carrick strikers Amy Cross, Jeni Leigh Patterson, and Natalie Hall all worked tirelessly either to find a telling gap in the visitors’ defence or to close down their opposite numbers when possession was lost.
And in defence, led by team captain Lois Passmore, Carrick’s back line of Passmore, Robyn Poots, Katie Houston, Julie Oliver and goalkeeper Karen Nelson proved more than capable of shutting out their attacking counterparts.
An evenly matched midfield grouping of Kerry McIlroy, Christine Waide, and Emma Nichols competed enthusiastically across the centre of the pitch aided by roll on cover from Lyndsey McClurg, Kelly Waide, Natasha McWilliams, and Ashley McConnell.
Influenced mainly by their impressive midfield playmaker, Rainey just about edged the balance of attacking moves, but Carrick’s outfield defence played superbly and the few chances Rainey had on goal were all dealt with brilliantly by Carrick’s player of the match, Nelson.
At the other end, Carrick may have managed fewer shots on target but the threat posed by their speedy front two, Cross and Patterson, aided by the midfield raiding of McIlroy and Waide ensured the entire Rainey defence were never able to press forward in support of their midfield and attack.
The contrasting body language of both teams at the end of the match very much reflected their overall response to the final scoreline.
Carrick’s players in celebratory mood at their turnaround since their earlier encounter in Magherafelt, while the visitors perhapsviewed the result as two points lost in their efforts to claim this season’s Senior 2 crown.