Carrick and Sky Blues make their point and get off mark
Carrick Rangers 1 Ballymena United 1
Carrick Rangers and Ballymena United each claimed their first point of the Danske Bank Premiership campaign after a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
Ballymena had won the previous six meetings between the sides in all competitions - including last season's League Cup final - but struggled to sparkle against David McAlinden's well-organised Carrick outfit.
The home side almost took the lead on 15 minutes when Andrew Mooney's rising drive crept inches over the bar.
David Jeffrey's side nearly broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time, Kevin Braniff's free kick hitting the post.
The stalemate was eventually broken seven minutes into the second period when former Ballymena defender Denver Gage flashed a header from Tony Kane's left wing free kick past his own keeper Harry Doherty.
But Rangers were level on the hour mark when a through ball caught the Ballymena defence square and Mooney raced clear to beat Ross Glendinning.
Ballymena almost regained the lead on 65 minutes but Tony Kane's free kick was brilliantly tipped over by Doherty.
Carrick spurned a glorious chance to go ahead on 67 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Steven McCullough bundled over Mark Surgenor in the penalty area but Ben Roy sent the spot kick wide.
Carrick Rangers: Doherty, Chapman (sub Taggart 81), McMullan, Gage, McNally, Edgar, Surgenor, Clarke, Mooney, Roy (sub Maybin 68), Suarez (sub Trussell 63). Subs (not used): Morrow, Malone.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Ervin, Flynn, Friars, McCullough, Gault, Kane, McCloskey (sub Friel 77), McKinney (sub McCaffrey 80), Braniff, Shevlin. Subs (not used): Thompson, Brennan, Loughran.
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)
Man of the match: Paddy McNally.
Match rating: 6/10