CHAMPIONSHIP 1: Comrades 0 Carrick Rangers 1

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Skipper Aaron Harmon was the hero as Carrick edged to a 1-0 win over neighbours Ballyclare to return to the top of the Championship table.

Harmon’s 60th-minute strike gave Rangers another precious three points as they continue to push for promotion to the top-flight.

Gary Haveron’s men went into this game on the back of a slick 3-0 win over Bangor, while the Comrades were aiming to bounce back from a disappointing 2-1 home defeat to basement club Coagh United in midweek.

The opening 45 minutes was a cagey affair with neither keeper being seriously tested.

The first clear-cut chance came with 18 minutes gone when Conor McCloskey darted down the right and burst into the Comrades’ penalty area, only to fire his angled drive wide of the far upright.

On 23 minutes Harmon provided Jody Lynch with a shooting opportunity but Chris Getty, playing at the heart of the Ballyclare defence, slid in to make superb block to clear the danger.

An intelligent first-time flick from Carrick’s Richard Gibson set Ben Roy scampering away from Darren Doherty on 37 minutes, but the former Ards man flashed his shot harmlessly wide of Paddy Flood’s left-hand post.

Two minutes later came the home side’s best chance of the half when top scorer Chris Shimmon fired straight at Simon Steele after good work from Andy Simms.

Early in the second-half Roy’s sliderule pass released McCloskey who failed to test Flood with his side-foot shot creeping wide of the upright.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man as Harmon showed great poise and control to drill the ball hard and low past Flood to give the visitors a precious lead.

Roy really should have doubled Carrick’s advantage on 63 minutes when he collected Flood’s half-baked clearance 25 yards out, only for the Comrades stopper to redeem himself with strong save as Roy was bearing down on goal.

Flood came to Ballyclare’s rescue again on 73 minutes when he got down low to his right to paw away substitute Adam Dick’s strike which looked destined for the bottom corner.

Carrick had a penalty shout waved away and referee Steven Taylor booked McCloskey for simulation when he went down all too easily when one-on-one with Flood.

Simon Steele produced a fine stop from Adam Gray late on, before McCloskey got his marching orders for a second bookable offence after he lunged in on Adam McCart.

Ballyclare Comrades: Flood, Doherty, Cooper (Buckley 66), McAlea, Getty, McCart, Smith (Agnew 72), Young (Gray 82), Trussell, McClurg, Simms. Subs not used: Wilkinson, Forsythe.

Carrick Rangers: Steele, West, O’Kane, Haveron, Taggart, McCann, Harmon (Kelly 82), McCloskey, Roy, Gibson, Lynch (Dick 68). Subs not used: McArdle, Arthur, Donaghy.

Referee: Steven Taylor (Belfast)