Mallards off bottom with survival bid in full flight
Ballinamallard 2 Carrick Rgrs 1
Ballinamallard's survival bid took another big step forward last night as they defeated Carrick Rangers 2-1 to leapfrog their opponents at the foot of the Danske Bank Premiership.
The Mallards had trailed Carrick by seven points when Harry McConkey took the reins at Ferney Park six games ago but a fine run has seen the Fermanagh club secure nine points from those fixtures to move them two points ahead of Carrick at the bottom.
And McConkey's charges were good value for the win as the excellent Shane McGinty gave them the lead late in the first half.
Sean Noble then doubled their advantage in the 54th minute, although Carrick pulled a goal back through Darren Henderson with 25 minutes to go.
There were plenty of nerves around the ground in the latter stages but the home side were able to see the game out to secure three crucial points.
There was little between the sides in a tense and nervous opening period in the game with the home side having the first effort at goal after a heavy challenge by Damien McNulty on McGinty. However, Johnny Leddy's free-kick was well over the bar.
Ryan Curran and the lively McGinty then shot harmlessly wide for the Ferney Park outfit, while at the other end McNulty was close to breaking the deadlock when his attempted overhead kick from a corner went narrowly past the post.
Carrick's front two of Andrew Mooney and Henderson were willing runners and they asked questions of the Ballinamallard defence.
The two linked up just before the half-hour mark but Mooney's shot was blocked by Matthew Smyth and the Mallards cleared the danger.
The longer the half progressed, though, the more the home side began to probe and Stephen O'Flynn teed up McGinty, who fired just wide from 25 yards.
Leddy was next to have a go but he saw his drive saved down low by Harry Doherty in the Carrick goals.
However, Doherty could not keep out McGinty's fiercely-struck effort as the Mallards took the lead in the 39th minute.
McGinty, drove forward from the middle of the park and when the Carrick defence backed off, he smashed a 25-yard screamer into the back of the net to give the home side the advantage at the interval.
And the Ducks went on to double their lead nine minutes into the second half. A mix-up at the back saw Doherty attempt to clear under pressure but the ball spilled to Noble, who slotted home from an acute angle.
Doherty was then forced to push a Noble drive over the bar as the Mallards looked to put the game to bed but with 65 minutes gone, Carrick were given a lifeline as Henderson got in on the right and tucked the ball home.
Ballinamallard, though, were getting joy down the right-hand side through Noble and he raced in once again but his low cross was cleared by McNulty as the visitors survived.
Mattie Smyth then headed wide at the back post as the home side continued to pose a threat but Carrick thought they had equalised in the 77th minute when Henderson turned the ball home but it was ruled out for offside.
That, however, was the last real nervy moment for the home side who went on to see out the remainder of the game and clinch the victory.
BALLINAMALLARD UTD: Brush, McLaughlin, Taheny, McKenna, Clarke, McGinty, Curran, Leddy (McCartney, 80 mins), Smyth, Noble, O'Flynn (McIlwaine, 89 mins).
CARRICK RANGERS: Doherty, Smyth, Mooney, McNally, Chapman, McAllister (Smith, 59 mins), Henderson, McNulty, Edgar, Kattoy, Taggart (Hassin, 67 mins).
Referee: Keith Kennedy
Man of the Match: Shane McGinty (Ballinamallard)
Match Rating: 7/10