BEN Browne’s extra-time winner fired Ards through to the last four of the Steel and Sons Cup at the expense of Carrick in an ill-tempered affair at Seaview.
Referee Keith Kennedy issued six red cards - four for Carrick - and a string of yellows, during the feisty Friday night encounter. Sencer Yilmaz, goalkeeper Simon Steele and Chris Murray all saw red for Rangers, while Craig McMillen was sent off for the visitors. Gary Haveron and Paul McDowell were dismissed after the final whistle.
Second-half strikes from Ross Arthurs and James Cully saw Ards fight back from two goals down after Yilmaz and Daniel Kelly had put Rangers two up inside 20 minutes.
The Championship 1 leaders weren’t at the races in the first half and it was Rangers who got off to a dream start early on when Yilmaz pounced on an awkward McAlinden back-pass to head home.
Rangers doubled their advantage when Aaron Harmon found Kelly on the left and he gleefully guided the ball into the bottom corner.
But the momentum began to swing in Ards’ favour when Yilmaz was red-carded before the break for two cautions, stemming from fouls on Davy McAlinden.
A change of formation, and the introduction of Browne and Paul McDowell at the start of the second session, proved to be the catalyst for the Ards revival.
Niall Currie’s side clawed their way back into it when Arthurs was in the right place at the right time turn in McMillen’s half-baked shot after Steele failed to deal with Greg Hall’s cross.
Steele redeemed himself on the hour with a fine save from a McDowell penalty, but Ards continued to knock on the door and Cully levelled matters on 67 minutes, drilling the ball into the bottom corner.
Aaron Harmon was inches away from edging Carrick back in front but he came up just short when he raced into the box to get on the end of a Conor McCloskey cross.
Carrick were reduced to nine men six minutes from time with Steele was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the box, before Ards winger McMillen was given his marching orders in the 90th minute for a second yellow.
Browne landed the crucial strike late in the first period of extra-time, netting at the back post when the ball spun out to him after sub ‘keeper Robert Robinson had denied McDowell.
There was more drama in the second session as Murray was dispatched to the dressing room for his second bookable offence. After the final whistle, McDowell and Gary Haveron were sent off after the match after an exchange as the teams made their way off the pitch.
Carrick Rangers: Steele, Murray, Crawford (Addis 63’), Haveron, Owens, Harmon, West (Robinson 86’), McDermott, Yilmaz, McCloskey, Kelly (Dick 82’). Unused subs: Taggart, Armour.
Ards: McKibbin, Hall, Pike, Spence, McAlinden (Browne 45’), Smith (McIlhagga 103’), McMillen, Moffatt (P. McDowell 45’), James Cully, Arthurs, Dougan. Unused subs: Dickson, Nixon.
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).