Belfast Telegraph

Carson and Coleraine are simply summit special

Coleraine 3 Carrick Rangers 2

By Jonathan McNabb

Coleraine went top of the Danske Bank Premiership last night after a hard fought 3-2 win over Carrick Rangers.

A double from Josh Carson, allied to a lovely finish from Aaron Burns, means the Bannsiders will be top for at least 72 hours.

And Oran Kearney's men achieved the big win despite some pre-match re-routing from Darren McCauley.

The 27-year-old winger, who was a second half substitute, thought his side were playing away from home and made the journey to Carrick.

Coleraine boss Kearney said: "Darren had a bit of a satnav problem, a geographical issue as he was sitting in Carrick at about 6pm. It took him a while to get up and take his place on the bench for the second half!

"He has been one of our standout players with a lot of goals and we were glad he joined us.

"Rarely are Carrick beaten by more than a goal so I knew it could be tight. We got the tough game we expected.

"We were nervous to begin with but found our feet. A first goal was important but we missed a penalty, making it a tougher night.

"The dressing room was relaxed at half-time. It's easy to be full of emotion but we were quiet and I fully believed the team had it in the locker to score goals. We had to show a bit of mental strength and belief.

"We wanted momentum and we've taken the opportunity to go top."

The home side were presented with the perfect opportunity to open the scoring as Eoin Bradley was brought down in the area by Damian McNulty.

The responsibility was given to Aaron Burns but his spot kick was brilliantly saved by Harry Doherty - the Bannsiders' fourth penalty miss of the season.

The Amber Army had more reasons to celebrate on 37 minutes as poor defending allowed Darren Henderson to slot home against his former club.

Whatever Kearney said to his players at half-time had the desired effect as they levelled the scores two minutes into the second-half.

A corner-kick found Brad Lyons at the back post and his pass found Carson who fired home from close range.

After surviving an early onslaught, Carrick threatened as Eamon McAllister forced Chris Johns into a smart save.

Burns would atone for his penalty miss on 58 minutes as Martin Smith picked out Brad Lyons inside the area and his clever flick found the ex-Linfield man who made no mistake to fire Coleraine in front.

The home side went in search of a third but nearly paid the price as Carrick sub Michael Smith had a header cleared off the line by Gareth McConaghie.

The third goal arrived in spectacular fashion as Darren McCauley and Aaron Traynor played a neat one-two and the latter's cut back was finished by Carson for his 10th goal of the season.

Many would have thought Carrick were done and dusted, but they weren't. A sweet finish from Michael Smith reduced the gap to a single goal with five minutes remaining.

But the hosts were able to see the game out and move a point clear of Crusaders ahead of next weekend's Tennents Irish Cup semi-final against Larne.

COLERAINE: Johns, Kane, Smith, Bradley, Carson, Burns (Dooley, 72 mins), McConaghie, Lyons, O'Donnell, Parkhill (McCauley, 54 mins), Traynor. Subs not used: Doherty, Mullan, Douglas.

CARRICK RANGERS: Doherty, A Smyth (Mooney, 88 mins), Surgenor, Chapman, J Smith, McAllister, Scannell (M Smith, 61 mins), Larmour, Hassin, Henderson, McNulty (Morrow, 78 mins). Subs not used: Gage, Fogarty.

Referee: Ross Dunlop

Man of the Match: Josh Carson

Match Rating: 7/10

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