Danske Bank Premiership
Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena
April 14th 2018
By Jana McCabe
Ards have had a successful week leading in to this clash with manager Colin Nixon turning down an approach from Glentoran and signing a new deal to keep him at Ards for another three years. This game was vital for Carrick who needed to win to avoid a relegation play-off place and even automatic relegation. There were two changes in the Ards line-up following last Saturday's heavy home defeat to Glentoran as 'keeper Sam Johnston and left-back Michael Ruddy returned to the starting 11.
The first real chance came in the fourth minute when Kyle Cherry passed to Michael McLellan who then tried to find Jonny Fraser but the speedy winger just failed to control. In the 8th minute Carrick nearly opened the scoring with a Gavin Taggart free-kick from distance but his shot was well saved by Johnston, with follow-up shots from Lee Chapman and then Darren Henderson just failing to find the target
Callum Byers was then lucky to avoid a caution or worse when he fouled an advancing Carrick striker who, luckily for Ards, was adjudged offside. Carrick continued to dominate with shots from Chapman and Brendan Glackin both resulting in skilful saves from Johnston, with Byers then picking up a caution in the 38th minute.
Then, in the 45th minute and against the run of play, Ards opened the scoring when Michael McLellan cleverly controlled Ruddy's throw-in and, with his second touch, shot past Harry Doherty in the Carrick goal to make it 1-0 to Ards at half-time.
Ards opened the second half looking to put the game to bed with good interchange between goalscorer McLellan and Mitchell just failing to trouble the Carrick keeper.
Then, in the 63rd minute, Henderson's shot was just over the bar as Carrick pushed for an equalizer. Again Carrick came close when Glackin's shot just failed to hit the target.
Ards had a good chance in the 67th minute when Ruddy lost possession in the box but regained control with a superb tackle passing to McLellan who cleverly passed to Cameron Stewart whose shot cleared the bar.
Mitchell then tried his luck from outside the box with Doherty saving before he was replaced by Under 20's player Adam Brown making his debut for Ards. Goalscorer McLellan was then replaced by Marc McKenna. Reece Glendinning then produced a superb challenge to deny Chapman a shot on goal as the home side pressed for an equaliser.
Then, in injury time, a good header from Smith to Henderson gave him a great chance but Johnston pulled off a wonder save to keep Ards ahead. In the last minute, the referee overruled the linesman and awarded Carrick a corner but, with the Amber Army urging their team on and goalkeeper Doherty in the Ards penalty area, the danger was cleared, so Ards' last away game of the season ended in a nervy 1-0 victory. Attention now turns to the penultimate home game of the season on Saturday versus Ballinamallard who are now in a 2-way battle for automatic relegation alongside Carrick.
Sam Johnston, Reece Glendinning, Callum Byers, Adam McAleenan, Michael Ruddy, Josh Kelly, Jonah Mitchell, Kyle Cherry, Jonny Fraser, Cameron Stewart, Michael McLellan
Subs: Adam Brown (for Jonah Mitchell) & Marc McKenna (for Michael McLellan)
Unused: Nathan Hanley, Gareth Tommons & Luke Kelly