Crusaders’ late, late show in success over Carrick Rangers
Jordan Owens and Jamie McGonigle hit injury-time goals to break the hearts of gutsy Carrick Rangers at the Loughshore Hotel Arena.
Just when it seemed that Stephen Baxter’s boys were heading for their fourth success draw, the strike duo went to work to help seal their team three crucial Danske Bank Premiership points.
The Crues hadn’t won a league game since October 4 and that horrible run looked set to continue.
Niall Currie’s Rangers got off to the best possible start - with Guillaume Keke firing them into the lead with a blistering strike – it was lead they held until the 56th minutes until substitute Ross Clarke, who had replaced the out-of-touch Paul Heatley at the interval, levelled things up.
Owens struck the decisive blow on 94 minutes before McGonigle grabbed a ‘Goal of the Season’ contender with the most audacious of lobs.
Rangers could well have been on front on five minutes when Stewart Nixon’s corner-kick pin-balled inside the box and, although Kyle Cherry had two stabs at it, he couldn’t force it over the line.
But the home side had better luck on 14 minutes with that Keke special. He picked up a pass from Lloyd Anderson and, after flicking the ball past Jordan Forsythe, he rammed a sweet half-volley past Gerard Doherty from the edge of the box.
The Crues were shell-shocked and, for a time, appeared to be totally devoid of ideas, relying too often on the long ball to Owens, who was well marshalled by Mark Surgenor and Chris Rodgers.
They did have a sniff at goal on 33 minutes when Forsythe’s monster long throw-in broke kindly for Heatley on the edge of box, but his scuffed effort clipped the outside of the post.
Before the break, Rory Hale’s free-kick was touched on by Owens for Heatley, whose tame shot was easily dealt with by Aaron Hogg.
Just seconds before the half-time whistle, Doherty was called into action to deal with a Jerry Thompson free-kick.
Crusders roared from the traps after the restart, with McGonigle curling a beauty just over the top before Hale tried his luck with a wicked 30-yard drive.
But Clarke showed how it was done on 56 minutes. Picking up a pass from Billy Joe Burns, he displayed great balance and pace to cut in from the right before ramming a left-footed shot into the top corner.
Rangers looked to have secured a well-earned point as the game drifted into injury-time. But substitute Reece McGinley whipped in a hopeful cross from the left that arrived at the boot of Owens and his low drive was deflected past Hogg.
The best was yet to come as 60 seconds later, McGonigle tricked his way down the right and, having spotted Hogg off his line, lobbed home a wonder strike.
CARRICK RANGERS: Hogg, Surgenor, Rodgers, Chapman, Faulkner, Nixon (Sachem, 84), Ferrin, Cherry (Hassin, 60), Thompson, Keke (Smith, 62), Anderson.
Subs (not used): Nicholl, Carson, Neale, Loughran.
CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns, Coates, Lowry (McGinley, 90), McGonigle, Hale, Cushley (Beverland, 46), Forsythe, Ruddy, Owens, Heatley (Clarke, 46).
Subs (not used): O’Neill, Caddell, O’Rourke, McElroy.
REFEREE: Evan Boyce.