Michael Smith (11)



Caolin Coyle and Eoghan McCawl tussle for possession (©INPHO/Matt Mackey)


Carrick Rangers hold the advantage in the Danske Bank Premiership promotion/relegation play-offs thanks to a narrow first leg victory over Ards at the Loughshore Hotel Arena.

Niall Currie's side raced into an early lead when, after 11 minutes, Michael Smith headed Reece Neale's corner past Ards keeper Sam Johnston at the bear post.

Ards had an opportunity to get back on level terms soon after but Michael McLellan was denied by a one-handed save from Aaron Hogg.

Despite this bright opening, the first half was a cagey affair with chances at a premium although there was a flurry before the break when first Hogg saved well from Kyle Cherry while, moments after that, Johnston tipped a Smith effort over.

Ards came close to levelling around the hour mark when substitute Mark Kelly produced a fingertip save from Hogg before Darren Henderson sliced an effort wide from close range.

Carrick's best moment of the second half came late in the game when Ryan Strain fired over from a Stewart Nixon cross.

The return is scheduled for Monday night at the Bangor Fuels Arena, kick-off 7:45pm.

Carrick Rangers: Hogg, Coyle, Neale, Surgenor, Rodgers, Loughran, McMillen, Anderson, Kelly, Nixon, Smith subs Malcolmson (not used), Adamczyk (replaced McMillen 20), Strain (replaced Smith 70), McNeill (not used), McDermott (replaced Loughran 34), McCauley (not used), Gage (not used)

Ards: Johnston, Kerr, E. McAllister, Taylor, Cherry, McLellan, J. Kelly, Tommons, McClean, McCawl, McNulty subs Davidson (not used), Byers (not used), M. Kelly (replaced McLellan 58), Nelson (replaced Cherry 72), McAleenan (not used), Shearer (not used), Henderson (replaced E. McAllister 69)

Referee: Tony Clarke

Tags:  Ards  Carrick Rangers