‘Gers arrived at the Bangor Fuels Arena leading by a goal to nil on aggregate
and knew that a win on the night would confirm a return to the top division of
Northern Irish football.
only three minutes on the clock, the ‘Gers got off to the best possible start.
A Stewart Nixon corner-kick was delivered deep to the back post where skipper
Mark Surgenor climbed highest to nod the ball in and give the visitors the
thought they had found an instant response as Johnny Taylor found the net from
Damien McNulty’s set-up minutes later, however the linesman’s flag ruled out
top scorer Michael Smith then showed why he has bagged so many goals this
season as he found space to latch onto Lee Chapman’s cross, however his accurate
header drew a great one-handed save from Sam Johnston.
before the half-hour mark, the East Antrim side doubled their advantage.
Another corner, this time from Reece Neale, created more problems for the Ards
defence which they couldn’t deal with as Chris Rodgers directed the ball towards
Ryan Strain whose flicked header from close range found the bottom corner.
game could have been put to bed just moments later as Chapman’s cross found the
lurking Nixon who directed his headed effort just wide of the mark.
minutes before the break, the home side pulled a goal back. Substitute Kyle
Cherry delivered a dangerous free-kick from the left and it was met by
centre-half Taylor who headed the ball past Aaron Hogg and into the net,
halving the deficit at the interval.
minutes into the second half, Rangers were dealt a massive blow as Rodgers’
challenge on David McAllister saw referee Evan Boyce produce a second yellow
card and give the defender his marching orders, meaning the ‘Gers had to play
the remaining majority of the half with ten men.
caused Niall Currie and his staff into a reshuffle, as Daniel Kelly moved to
defence and Jake McNeill was introduced to freshen things up in the middle of
the park, taking the place of Chapman.
chances for both sides followed as David McAllister first fired over from the
edge of the box, before Caolin Coyle went on a great solo run and curled a shot
just past the upright.
Henderson then tried his luck with an acrobatic effort, however Hogg was equal
to it as he held the shot.
twenty minutes remaining, Lukasz Adamczyk came on for Michael Smith.
their numerical disadvantage, Rangers still pressed to kill the game off as a
Nixon free-kick was so nearly connected to by the boot of Kelly.
Henderson found acres of space in the area to latch onto a cross, however he
headed directly at Hogg in the away goal.
final change saw Denver Gage replace Strain in an attempt to deal with the late
five added minutes, the full-time whistle sparked scenes of jubilation in the
Bangor Fuels Arena as Carrick Rangers returned to the Danske Bank Premiership.
An emotion-filled celebration ensued on the synthetic surface on a memorable
night for the club which also marked the end of an inspiring season in the
Bluefin Sport Championship.