Carrick Rangers 1-1 Ards: Clubs share Boxing Day spoils
Both Carrick Rangers and Ards maintained their lead over basement club Portadaown, with a hard-fought Boxing Day draw at Taylor's Avenue.
Daniel Kelly gave Rangers the lead in the 31st minute, only for Ards to equalise through captain Emmet Friars four minutes into the second half.
The draw leaves Ards 20 points clear and Carrick 10 points clear of a revitalised Ports.
Carrick boss Aaron Callaghan said, "I think it was a fair result in the end.
"There was a strong wind blowing right down the middle of the pitch. We had that wind in the first half, and we had the better of the game. They had it in the second half, and had more of the game. The wind played a big part in the outcome of the game.
"I think it was a good Carrick performance and I'm certainly not downbeat about the result.
"We will look to bring in players in January. We already have a couple of lads coming up from the south. There's a backseat free in that car, that we would like to fill."
Colin Nixon remains unbeaten, with two 1-1 draws since replacing Niall Currie in the Ards dugout.
Nixon said, "I think we are unfortunate not to claim all three points. We worked very hard and were on top for most of the second half."
Carrick made the breakthrough in the 31st minute. Forward Daniel Kelly ran through the middle of the Ards defence, latching onto a smart pass from Tiernan McNicholl, before slotting past Aaron Hogg.
Ards started the second half brightly, with a low half-volley from Stuart McMullan forcing Neeson into a fine save, tipping the ball round the post.
The equaliser arrived in the 49th minute. Kyle Cherry's inch-perfect corner-kick was nodded home at the back post by captain Emmet Friars, with the ball clipping the inside of the post on the way in.
With the scores level, Ards looked most likely to score the winner, but Nixon's men struggled to create a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity.
Perhaps the best chance for a winner arrived four minutes from the final whistle when Joe McKinney flicked the ball into the path of Gary Liggett, but the former Dungannon Swifts striker was unable to find the target, blazing the ball well over the crossbar.
Carrick remain stuck in the relegation Play-Off, two points shy of Ballinamallard United. Although Ards are unbeaten under Nixon, they have not won a league game on the pitch since the first weekend in October.
On Saturday, Ards will host in form Ballymena United at the Bangor Fuels Arena while Carrick Rangers will travel to strugglers Coleraine.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Foster, Surgenor, McNally, Kelly, McCullough, Morrow (72 Rice), McNicholl, Salley, M. Murray, Chapman
Subs Not Used: Lavery, Hanley, Taggart, Waide
Ards: Hogg, Hall, McMullan, Friars, Ruddy; Cherry, McCullough; Tommons (Hughes 84), McAllister, McKinney; Keke (Liggett 74)
Unused Subs: Arthurs, Brennan, McComb