Carrick Rangers manager David McAlinden voiced his frustration as his side played out a 2-2 draw moving them 5 points clear of opponents Ballinamallard United in the Basement battle at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena on Friday evening in a dramatic game of football.
It was United who started the game the better as they worked a fine opening on 27 minutes as Ryan Curran was played in by Jonathan Leddy but he took a heavy touch before his shot was well blocked by Patrick McNally at the heart of the Carrick Rangers defence.
However, a minute later David McAlinden’s side went close to breaking the deadlock as Eamon McAllister ran down the right wing before his low cross found Mikel Suarez but he scuffed his effort allowing the Mallards to clear with ease.
It was the Mallards who took the lead on 31 minutes as Leddy whipped in a corner that found James McKenna unmarked at the back post before he fired his strike into the roof of the net leaving Carrick keeper Harry Docherty with no chance of stopping.
Gavin Dykes side were playing the better football and they nearly went two ahead as Ryan O’Reilly crossed low resulting in Denver Gage slicing his clearance to the feet of Richard Clarke, but he shot wide of the target from close range.
On the stroke of half time Clarke created another opening as he attempted to play in Gary Armstrong but he overhit his pass resulting in former Lisburn Distillery defender Lee Chapman clearing the danger.
It was a tale of the two managers at the break as both McAlinden and Dykes were sent off due a scuffle at the break due to a foul mouth outburst to the Carrick Rangers manager by McKenna after he put the Ducks ahead.
It was the home side who started the second half the brighter as Michael Smith cut inside from the right, but his low effort sailed wide of the target.
However, Carrick Rangers equalised as Smith met a Daniel Larmour cross perfectly before he rose highest to head the ball into the net to the delight of the home support on 52 minutes.
The introduction of Andrew Mooney at halftime sparked Carrick into life and they went close to taking the lead on 54 minutes as Suarez was played in by Chris Morrow his powerful strike was then well saved by Richard Brush in the Mallards.
As Carrick pressed for their second it arrived on 59 minutes as Denver Gage received a late Christmas gift as he met Eamon McAllister’s corner perfectly to direct his header perfectly into the top corner of the net.
As the tempo of the game slowed down it wasn’t until the 73rd minute until the next clear-cut opportunity as Mark Surgenor ‘s floated in freekick met the head of Suarez but he flicked his effort over the crossbar.
Late drama was then to follow as the Ducks levelled the tie on 83 minutes when substitute Joshua McIllwaine met a McKenna cross at the back post to tap the ball past Doherty and into the net as Carrick Rangers appeals for offside were waved away.
Two minutes later and Doherty was to come to his sides rescue as he made a fine low save down low to his right after Shane McGinty skipped past the Carrick Rangers defence before lashing his strike goal wards.
It was Carrick Rangers who had the final chance of the game as Chapman whipped in a corner for Morrow, but he fired his strike over the crossbar from range.
McAlinden said after the game “We played for 25 minutes and got a 2-2 draw imagine what would have happened if we had played for 90 when we went 2-1 up we just didn’t kill the game of when I thought we should have “.
“We showed good character coming out at half time and getting back into the match after a nothing first half after they took the lead”.
McAlinden also added when asked about his sending off “Their goal scorer has a lot to say I don’t know why anybody would feel the need to say what he said to me he certainly wouldn’t be in my changing room”.