McIlwaine’s deadly double has Dykes jumping for joy
Carrick Rangers 1 Ballinamallard United 2
Ballinamallard United boss Gavin Dykes hailed his boys following this crucial basement battle win over Carrick Rangers.
A glorious double from Josh McIlwaine made the long journey home to County Fermanagh a lot more enjoyable on a bitterly cold night. Although Ryan Morris fired into his own net late on, ailing Carrick never appeared capable of salvaging a point.
The victory helped ease United away from the threat of relegation — they are now a whopping 17 points above Portadown — but they dumped Aaron Callaghan’s boys right into the Danske Bank Premiership mire.
“We were hanging on a little bit at the end, but we should have been out of sight because we missed so many clear cut chances,” said Dykes. “I’m thrilled with the victory and for Josh. He took his goals superbly well.
“If we keep playing like that, we can climb the table.”
It was the visitors who asked the early questions and they almost took the lead after only two minutes with both Jason McCartney and McIlwaine inches away from turning in a teasing cross from Ryan Mayse.
Two minutes later, however, McIlwaine demonstrated great composure when he gobbled up a cross from Morris to ram the ball past Brian Neeson.
Callaghan’s team were almost level on 15 minutes. Former Waterford midfielder Sean Noble crossed for fellow new signing Tezee Mustapha, whose bullet header was brilliantly kept out by goalkeeper Richard Brush.
Rangers were cursing their luck only seconds after the break. Steven McCullough tried his luck with a 30 yard drive that Brush managed to claw out of the top corner, leaving Noble with an open goal, but he could only shoot against the post!
The hosts knew it wasn’t going to be their night when McCartney hoofed a Paddy McNally header off the line and, within seconds, McIlwaine put the game to bed at the other end when he converted McCartney’s cross.
Carrick were gifted a lifeline five minutes from them when the unfortunate Morris turned a shot from substitute Lee Chapman into his own net, but it was too little to late for the home team.
Carrick: Neeson, Smyth, McCullough, Surgenor, McNally, Morrow (Salley, 67 mins), M Murray, TJ Murray, Noble, O’Connor, Mustapha (McAllister, 60 mins).Unused subs: Taggart, Chapman, Hanley.
Ballinamallard: Brush, Morris, Feeney, McCabe, McGinty (Frempong, 84 mins), Lafferty, Mayse (Owens, 90 mins), McCartney, McLaughlin, Elliott (Taheny, 87 mins), McIlwaine. Unused subs: McGrath, Curran.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)