Allan Jenkins equaliser not too late to save Glenn Ferguson
Allan Jenkins' goal two minutes from time rescued a point for Ballymena United at the Showgrounds and could well have saved manager Glenn Ferguson his job.
They did it the hard way, coming from a goal and a man down after Jim Ervin's first minute dismissal, with the result lifting the Braidmen off the foot of the table thanks to their first point of the season.
It was no more than the Sky Blues deserved for a wonderfully gutsy display when their hoped for dream start turned into a nightmare after all of 32 seconds.
A seemingly harmless long ball skidded off the greasy surface past the despairing lunge of Kyle McVey into the path of Miguel Chines who charged into the penalty area, only to be stopped unceremoniously by Ervin.
A penalty and a red card - the United skipper's second in just four games this season - was the only option for referee Keith Kennedy and Chines picked himself to score from the spot.
It could have been even worse for United in the fourth minute when more defensive slackness allowed Gary Browne the time to swivel and shoot in the box but Dwayne Nelson did well to push the ball away.
The 10-men could have equalised just past the half hour when David Cushley's drilled corner kick found an unmarked Matthew Ferguson in the six-yard-box but there was just too much pace on the ball for him to keep it on goal.
The visitors almost doubled their advantage three minutes before the break when after a neat exchange between Aaron Traynor and Ben Roy, the latter had his shot deflected into the air and Daniel Kelly's looping headed came back off the post and was cleared.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more bizarre at the Showgrounds as half-time approached a banner with 'Spike Out' was unfurled in the stand prompting ugly scenes as a section of United fans grappled with stewards while other Sky Blue supporters tried to shout them down and then gave the 10-men a standing ovation at half-time!
Twelve minutes later United were cursing their luck when, after Jenkins' surging run, he released David Cushley to cross to the back post but a combination of Matthew Tipton and Shevlin somehow shovelled the ball wide.
But just when the game looked up for the home side McVey's hanging free-kick looped into the air and Jenkins lashed the ball home on the volley prompting several United players to run over and hug the under-fire Ferguson.
CARRICK RANG 7
Ballymena United: Nelson, Ervin, Ruddy (Millar 81), McVey, Rodger, Ferguson (Hanley 62), Faulkner, Jenkins, Tipton (Henderson 75), Shevlin, Cushley.
Subs not used: Taylor, E Kane.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Smyth, Traynor, Surgenor, Kelly (Doyle), Harmon, Chines (Miskimmin 74), Cherry, Roy, Browne (Cash 59), McNeill.
Subs not used: R Kane, Johnston.
Man of the match: Ben Roy (Carrick Rangers)
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)