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Carrick boss Callaghan beams with pride as keeper Neeson's heroics inspire Rangers

Carrick Rangers 2 Dungannon Swifts 0

By David Mason

Published 17/11/2016

Back of the net: Stephen McCullough opened the scoring for Carrick
Back of the net: Stephen McCullough opened the scoring for Carrick

Carrick Rangers boss Aaron Callaghan saluted his troops after they claimed a slot in the semi-finals of the League Cup at a wet Loughshore Hotel Arena.

Goals from Stephen McCullough and Daniel Kelly secured Carrick their passage to the last four. They have picked up a mere eight points from their 16 league starts, but Callaghan's boys now have a chance to lift the gloom.

But Dungannon Swifts left east Antrim scratching their heads as to how they let this game slip from their grasp.

Carrick keeper Brian Neeson produced a man of the match performance, leaving big striker Andrew Mitchell frustrated.

"The boys had to dig in," said Callaghan. "We were under the cosh for a long time, but kept our shape and discipline.

"We haven't been getting our rewards that our displays have warranted in the league, so this is a nice little bonus."

It was the visitors who asked all the early questions. Mitchell's piercing dash down the left after only 90 seconds created a great opportunity for Ryan Harpur, who shamefully blazed over.

Midfielder Dougie Wilson then went close with a header following Paul McElroy's exquisite delivery from a corner before Mitchell brought the best out of Neeson.

Again, McElroy was the provider and the striker caught it perfectly, but his effort was superbly touched away by the Carrick shot-stopper.

But after soaking up all the early pressure, Carrick squeezed into the lead from their first meaningful attack on 24 minutes.

McCullough burst through the middle only to be denied by Stuart Addis. But when Chris Morrow picked up the pieces, he whipped in a great ball and the midfielder rose high to convert.

Swifts made a positive response. Mitchell stung the hands of Neeson with a 25-yard drive before defender Andrew Burns was guilty of a glaring miss.

Harpur's corner was flicked on by Kris Lowe and Burns found himself unmarked at the back post, but hoofed his drive over.

Neeson again earned his wages on 55 minutes when Mitchell's low shot was expertly repelled.

With the clock ticking down, Rodney McAree's boys went for broke. It took another wonder save from Neeson to prevent Lowe from levelling and Mitchell then fizzed over.

Seconds later, the striker again watched Neeson get down to get a telling glove to his shot.

The visitors were knocking at the door, but they must have realised it wasn't going to be their night when they at last got the better of Neeson, only for Burns to head Jamie Glackin's cross wide.

Against all the odds, Carrick struck again with eight minutes left. Substitute Chris Lavery delivered a delicious pass into the path of Kelly and the makeshift striker drilled under Addis.

Belfast Telegraph

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