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Carrick stars exceeding my expectations, insists Currie

Ballymena United 1 Carrick Rangers 2

Carrick Rangers return to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena on Friday night where they have won their last two games and are ready for the visit of Crusaders.

There will be no pre-match predictions of going into the game confident of victory because that's not how Niall Currie does things but the Carrick boss is sure to be on a high after a third win in four matches which he described as fantasy stuff.

"The Crues game is a free hit. We'll look forward to it and give them a good rattle," he said. "But if someone had said at this stage we would be sitting on 15 points (in eighth, just one point behind Ballymena), I would have called them a fool. But the players deserve all the praise, they are an honest and talented bunch who don't get the credit they deserve.

"We know you can lose six-seven games on the bounce but that's the way it is for a club like ours. We put in a great shift at Windsor last week (in a 2-0 defeat) and I said at half-time if we do the same again we'll see this through and they threw their bodies on the line. I can't praise the players highly enough."

Rangers were helped by some amazing misses by Ballymena in those hectic last 15 minutes. Four times players somehow contrived to miss the target when it seemed easier to score, but Carrick had done the same in the first half-hour when they scored twice but endured three howlers.

The goal after 47 seconds set the tone with Darren Kelly poking home after Ross Glendinning had failed to gather James Ferrin's header and although United responded inside 11 minutes, with a back-post header by Aaron Burns, Lee Chapman restored Carrick's lead in the 24th minute in almost identical fashion.

Ballymena boss David Jeffrey praised his players for their second-half rally. He said: "When you're going through a tough time there is a nervousness. At half-time I told them you can either continue like this or throw it in the bin and they responded well. The only thing that was missing was the finish."

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Ballymena: Ross Glendinning; Andrew Burns (Brown 86 mins), Ervin, Addis, McCullough; McGrory, Kelly, Aaron Burns, Winchester (McGinty 73 mins); Kane, Lavery (Mayse 73 mins). Unused subs: Williamson, Balmer, Reece Glendinning, Warnock.

Carrick: Hogg; Ferrin, Surgenor, Rodgers; Chapman, Cherry (Anderson 67 mins), Kelly, Thompson; Faulkner; Nixon (Sachem 84 mins6 ), Keke (Smith 58 mins). Unused subs: McAuley, Neale, Loughran, Hassin.

Referee: Raymond Crangle

Man of the match: William Faulkner

Match Rating: 8/10

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