Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena United 3 Carrick Rangers 0

By Billy Weir

Michael Hughes is preparing for life in the Championship and has vowed to give youth a chance as he looks to bring Carrick Rangers back into the top flight.

While it is technically still possible for Hughes’ side to avoid the drop, Saturday’s tame capitulation and catastrophic defending against Ballymena United showed that they just aren’t good enough to survive.

The former Northern Ireland midfielder recognised that fact having watched former Carrick favourite James Costello plunder a hat-trick to take his tally to six goals in three games and United’s unbeaten run now stands at 10.

“We’ve no chance, our goal difference is 14 and we’re not going to win games 5-0 and Dungannon aren’t going to lose games 5-0 so it would be ridiculous of me to stand here and say it’s still mathematically possible because, even though it is, it isn’t because it’s not going to happen,” said Hughes.

“We’re down and that’s the end of it as far as this season is concerned. It’s an ongoing project and, as much as we’re disappointed at going down, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world for us and we were aware very early on that that was a distinct possibility.

“We will try and rebuild and we will try and put the emphasis on younger players coming through and giving them a chance mixed with a little bit of quality we may now be able to go out and bring in over the next couple of months.

“We made eight changes at the transfer window and we improved what we had beyond recognition and it still just wasn’t enough for us because it took a little while for the guys to galvanise.”

And there was sympathy for the club’s plight from Costello, whose treble confirmed their demotion.

“It’s bitter-sweet because I still absolutely love Carrick and, to be honest, I was talking to them in January before Glenn (Ferguson) came in as it was a move I could have made so it’s disappointing to do it against them but, as a striker, you have to be selfish and say three goals is three goals,” he said.

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