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Rampant Carrick Rangers just too strong for Welders

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Amber glow: jubilant Carrick players celebrate their side’s third goal, scored by Man of the Match Conor McCloskey

Amber glow: jubilant Carrick players celebrate their side’s third goal, scored by Man of the Match Conor McCloskey

Amber glow: jubilant Carrick players celebrate their side’s third goal, scored by Man of the Match Conor McCloskey

Carrick Rangers got their Christmas Day off to the perfect start with the club's third Toals Steel & Sons Cup after a comfortable win over Championship One rivals Harland & Wolff Welders in an incident-packed final at Seaview.

It should have been a day for leading Welders marksman Michael McLellan to be celebrating, with his goal on the day marking his record-breaking 18th Steel Cup goal for the season, but Gary Smyth's men found Carrick a tough nut to crack, even after the second half dismissal of Carrick defender Daniel Kelly.

There was a fairly tense start to the game with both teams taking time to find their feet. But as it progressed, it was Carrick who began to look the bigger threat.

A stylish move from the Taylor's Avenue outfit in the 14th minute saw Conor McCloskey back-heel to Aaron Traynor, but PhIlip Simpson sped in to cut out the danger.

The Welders got their first chance soon after; a clean-struck volley from Scott Davidson which flew well wide of the mark.

However, at the other end, Aaron Smyth was much more decisive in the 17th minute, when he reacted quickly to a poor defensive clearance, catching the ball sweet on the volley from inside the box to find the top corner of the Welders goal.

Carrick had a golden opportunity to immediately double their lead, as Traynor fed the ball across to Ben Roy, but the former Dundela and Ards striker's shot was accidentally blocked by Adam Dick. Dick was in the thick of things again several moments later, this time heading well over from a Traynor cross.

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There then followed a nervy spell for Carrick, where their crossbar was rattled twice in five minutes.

Rainey first found the upright with a header from a Mark Magennis header on 25 minutes, then Carrick defender Daniel Kelly inadvertently found his own bar from a crucial sliding challenge.

Carrick missed another fine chance to extend their lead in the 33rd minute, with McCloskey pulling back to Traynor, who screwed wide.

It was yet another let off for the men from east Belfast, but they weren't to be let off so lightly just six minutes later, as Kyle Cherry got ahead of his marker to nod home from another McCloskey cross.

From a neutral perspective, it was pleasing to see both teams begin the second 45 minutes much more attacking than they had the first.

This was typified by an excellent solo run from William Armstrong, and while Kelly eventually brought him down near the edge of the area, Magennis did manage to beat the goalkeeper with his bending free kick… but Traynor came to Carrick's rescue, heading it off the goal-line.

Meanwhile, Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson was busy maintaining the deficit, as he came all the way out to the corner flag to kick the ball off McLellan and out for a corner.

Once again, that advantage could have been increased, when Roy burst through for a one-on-one with Dougherty, but the Welders number one stood firm to deny him.

It wasn't long, however, before Carrick's jubilant supporters were cheering a third goal, and what a sublime 61st minute strike it was - the impressive McCloskey cutting inside the box before launching a soaring effort right into the top corner. Just to rub salt into the Welders' wounds, their skipper Philip Simpson was handed a yellow card by referee Steven Gregg in the aftermath.

What had seemed like an uphill struggle for the Welders had now turned into mission impossible, although Carrick didn't always make it easy for themselves. A Smyth back-pass intended for Neeson fell short, and Scott Davidson intercepted, only to his shot blocked by the well-placed Carrick keeper.

Then Gary Haveron's side were reduced to 10 men in the 76th minute, with Daniel Kelly's second yellow card of the game, for a foul on David Rainey, 20 yards out. McLellan took full advantage to connect a volley to Magennis' free kick and claim that record.

But it wasn't enough to stop Haveron's side from getting their hands on the main prize, and Roy topped off a memorable occasion, by robbing the ball from Willam Armstrong, before running unchallenged and sliding past Dougherty.


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