Carrick Rangers 1-2 Warrenpoint Town
As Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray admitted after this long-awaited but fully earned victory, the players are going home “feeling positive, upbeat and really good and they deserve all the accolades going”.
A first Premiership victory after 12 straight losses still leaves them bottom of the table but, finally, there is hope and they can start looking upwards.
Luke Wade-Slater was their two-goal hero but everyone, including substitute Greg Moorhouse who with one of his first touches started the move to the winning goal in the 88th minute, played their part.
Alan O’Sullivan ploughed a lonely furrow up front but behind him Thomas Maguire and Ward-Slater worked tirelessly, while Kealan Dillon and Stuart Hutchinson covered every inch of the pitch, helping out in defence and setting up attacks.
Wing backs Colm Deasy – the one change from their last defeat – and Steven Ball were key to a dominant first half and then slipped easily into a back five to support the solid back three of Luke Gallagher, Gavin Peers and Jonathan Leddy.
They ensured that the one player who did not have to play a significant part was goalkeeper Conor Mitchell – beaten only by David Cushley’s 62nd minute penalty. His only serious save, albeit a vital one, was to block a close-range Lloyd Anderson shot.
But that was Carrick’s only contribution to a first half when Warrenpoint did pretty much as they liked. “Can we come back every week” was Gray’s response when told that Town had never lost when they had scored at the Loughview Leisure Arena (now six wins and two draws).
Dillon, Wade-Slater and Ball – denied by a superb interception by Kurtis Forsythe - all could have scored before they took the lead in the 31st minute. Ball was sent clear down the left and when his low cross came in it was missed by at least two Carrick defenders and left by O’Sullivan to allow Wade-Slater to slot home at the back post.
It could have been two on the hour after good work by Deasy and Maguire set up Dillon whose shot was well saved by Aaron Hogg but the winner was worth waiting for – O’Sullivan providing the assist for Wade-Slater to shoot past the on-rushing keeper with his defence AWOL.
“The result was paramount today and the boys’ endeavour and the way they kept going to the last minute was the most pleasing,” said Gray.
“Today was a fresh start, it had to be a clean page, but the players reacted because they wanted to win the game - and possibly the support from the board(‘s vote of confidence) was brilliant - but they delivered a huge performance to end that negative run.
“We’re now only a couple of points behind the team above us with a game in hand but we need to take that fighting spirit and tenacity into the next few games.”
Carrick boss Stuart King had no complaints about the result, admitting his team were not good enough on the day.
“Warrenpoint fully deserved their win, well done Barry,” he said. “First-half we were really poor, they wanted it a lot more than my team. I made changes at half-time and there was a reaction but got done by a sucker punch that was preventable.
“But it’s been a tough week and I’ll take responsibility and give the players a bye-ball today.”
Carrick: Hogg 6, Forsythe 6, Surgenor 5, Ervin 5, Tilney 5; D Kelly 5 (McGuckin h/t 6); Gawne 5 (Nixon 81 mins 5), Cherry 5 (E Kelly 58 mins 5), Anderson 5 (Glendinning 58 mins 5), Cushley 6; Gibson 5.
Unused subs: Shields, Gordon. Kalla.
Warrenpoint: Mitchell 6; Gallagher 7, Peers 7, Leddy 7; Deasy 7, Dillon 7, Hutchinson 7, Ball 7; Wade Slater 8, Maguire 7 (Moorhouse 84 mins 7); O’Sullivan 7.
Unused subs: Coleman, McVeigh, Mullen, Masterson, Quinn, Shotayo.
Referee: Evan Boyce 6