Tiarnan McNicholl celebrates scoring Carrick's 80th minute winner (Picture: PressEye.com)
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
A Tiarnan McNicholl solo effort ten minutes from time secured a Northern Ireland League Cup final place for Carrick Rangers with victory over Glenavon at Mourneview Park.
Carrick roared out the blocks right from the start when, in a quick break, McNicholl had a shot on goal only for his effort to be deflected wide by Caolan Marron.
It took Glenavon around a quarter-of-an-hour to settle in the game and when they did Kevin Braniff laid the ball off for Mark Sykes who, in turn, tried to find Eoin Bradley but the danger was snuffed out by Paddy McNally.
The visitors created the best opportunities of the scoreless first half-an-hour or so, although the closest they came to finding a way through was a T.J. Murray effort which he could only direct straight at 'keeper James Taylor.
At the other end, Andy Hall delivered a cross into the box in an attempt to find Joel Cooper but Carrick 'keeper Brian Neeson comfortably gathered the ball.
And Neeson was called into action again soon after to deal with a potentially difficult drive from Bradley.
But Carrick almost snatched the advantage a few minutes from the break when Daniel Kelly connected with a great pass from McNicholl only to send the ball just wide of an upright.
Glenavon had a chance of their own right on the half-time whistle after Braniff found Cooper with a cross field pass but Cooper could only send the ball the wrong side of the far post.
Gary Hamilton's side began the second period brightly, with an early chance coming when Sykes just failed to make contact with a Hall cross.
The Lurgan Blues continued to up the pressure with Cooper skewing the ball across the face of goal after connecting with a Bradley flick.
However, McNicholl caused concern at the other end with a powerful cross from the right which Taylor did well to push away before play switched again with Cooper again going close with a looping header.
Perhaps the chance of the game to date arrived moments later when a Martin Murray corner was nodded goalwards by McNally but, luckily for Glenavon, Andy McGrory was perfectly placed to clear off the line.
With a quarter-of-an-hour remaining Jamie Singleton almost found a way through for Glenavon only for Neeson to deny him with a superb fingertip save.
But, again, Carrick created a chance moments later through substitute Chris Morrow, only on the pitch a few moments, when he was denied by Taylor with literally his first touch.
Aaron Callaghan's side did take the lead with ten minutes remaining, however, when McNicholl cut a swathe through the Glenavon defence before slotting the ball beyond Taylor into the bottom corner.
Glenavon: Taylor, Lindsay, Marshall, Cooper, Bradley, Hall, Sykes, Marron, McGrory, Braniff, Singleton subs Neill (not used), O'Brien (replaced Bradley 83), Moorhouse (replaced Braniff 83), Martyn (replaced McGrory 83), Elebert (not used)
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Chapman, McCullough, Rice, Surgenor, McNally, Taggart, M. Murray, McNicholl, T.J.Murray, Kelly subs Morrow (replaced T.J. Murray 77), Lavery (replaced M. Murray 87), Hanley (not used), Wilson (not used), Foster (not used)
Referee: Steven Taylor