Carrick Rangers edge closer to coveted Danske Bank Premiership spot
Carrick Rangers are within touching distance of the promised land of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Last night's 3-1 win over PSNI at Newforge means that Carrick will win the Belfast Telegraph Championship One title on Saturday if they can beat already-relegated Dundela in the final game of the season.
First-half goals from Ciaran Donaghy, Conor McCloskey and Kyle Cherry gave the Amber Army a vital victory.
Bangor remain two points behind Carrick thanks to a 1-0 win over Harland & Wolff Welders courtesy of a late Andy Hall goal. The Seasiders will pip Ards to the play-off place if they can beat Lisburn Distillery on Saturday. The second-placed club at 5pm in three days' time will play Warrenpoint Town in a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off.
After the game, Carrick Rangers boss Glenn Taggart said: "I'm delighted with our performance. I'm very proud of our boys. We started quickly and we were always on the front foot. Getting the early goal helped settle the nerves and then getting two goals before half time really helped us.
"But you have to give James Kirk and the PSNI credit for the way they played in the second half. They played much better and it was a slight concern when they pulled one back. I think they had a clear penalty turned down just after the goal.
"We were nervous for a while but we settled and I don't think anyone could say that we didn't deserve the three points. We did what we've done all season. We dug in and we got the points."
Carrick took the lead in the sixth minute when former Cliftonville defender Donaghy headed home a Cherry corner-kick.
McCloskey added a second in the 43rd minute when he nodded a Miguel Chines free-kick past PSNI keeper David Harrison. It was 3-0 a minute later when Cherry drilled home a low shot.
Kirk's PSNI pulled one back in the 66th minute. Mark Anderson claimed the goal but it looked as if Carrick defender Aaron Smyth got the final touch.
Even though Carrick face struggling Dundela next, Taggart is refusing to take the Championship title for granted.
"The job is far from over. Dundela might already be relegated but they've got some great players. I'm gobsmacked they're in the position they're in," he said.
"Dundela Football Club has a history of upsetting the odds and creating shocks, so we can not take anything for granted. I'm expecting a very difficult game."
Carrick would have been crowned champions last night if the Welders held Bangor to a draw at Tillysburn. Taggart expressed his disappointment with the Welders' decision to rest a number of players. Manager Gary Smyth perhaps had one eye on next Friday's Intermediate Cup final against Carrick.
"We knew the Welders were going to rest a lot of players. I'm disappointed by that," said Taggart. "The cup final is 10 days away. It would have made more sense to me if they had rested players on Saturday. So I am disappointed.
"That's not to say Bangor wouldn't have beaten a full Welders team. Bangor are a quality outfit and they're capable of beating anybody."
PSNI: Harrison, Gray (Stewart 22), Dane, McCrory, Blackledge, Moody, Berry, Dobbin (Anderson 62), McWilliams, McDermott, Adams (Holden 62).
Subs Not Used: McLaughlin, Kirk.
CARRICK RANGERS: Neeson, Smyth, Donaghy (Kelly 24), Arthur, Traynor, Harmon, Cherry, Watson (Kane 63), McCloskey (Dick 72), Roy, Chines.
Subs Not Used: Arthur, McConnell.
CARRICK RANGERS 3