CARRICK RANGERS 0 BALLYMENA UNITED 2
A goal in each half at Carrick Rangers secured Ballymena United’s Premiership safety.
David Cushley’s 38th-minute free-kick put David Jeffrey’s men in the driving seat against a lacklustre Gers, before substitute Michael Ruddy put the gloss on things with a late strike.
The result means its six games unbeaten for the Sky Blues since Jeffrey succeeded Glenn Ferguson in early March.
Carrick, who have kept just one clean sheet in 19 league outings, are still deep in the relegation mire. They host Portadown on Tuesday evening while Ballymena are away to bottom club Warrenpoint.
The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening 45 minutes, creating several good chances.
As early as the sixth minute William Faulkner fired narrowly over after Andrew Doyle failed to clear with a header.
Cushley then had two bites at the cherry to nick the opener. An initial drive from the edge of the box was blocked and he hammered wide from the rebound.
Paddy McNally must have thought his close-range shot was destined for the net but he was denied by an instinctive save by Brian Neeson.
Cushley zipped a 25-yarder over the bar before Faulkner’s left-foot shot was comfortably saved by Neeson after some neat link-up play with Henderson.
Carrick’s first opportunity arrived on 21 minutes when United stopper Alan Blayney was forced to make a full-stretch save from Ben Roy’s rasping shot from distance.
Daniel Kelly’s left-foot effort was then cleared off the line by Stephen McBride after Aaron Traynor’s effort had been parried by Blayney.
The deadlock was broken when Cushley’s free-kick from deep evaded everyone and found a way past Neeson and into the net.
The second half was a pedestrian affair with neither side setting the world on fire.
There was a half-chance for Carrick after 58 minutes as Aaron Traynor’s tame header from a Roy cross was easily dealt with by Blayney.
Midway through the second half United goalscorer Cushley hobbled off to be replaced by Ruddy.
And 10 minutes from time it was Ruddy who doubled their advantage when he found the net from close range after Faulkner unselfishly set him up, having seen his initial effort saved by the feet of Neeson.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson - Surgenor, Doyle, Taggart, Wallace - McCloskey, Kelly (McNeill 71), Cherry (Wright 62), Traynor - Roy, Salley. Subs not used: Johnston, McCaul, Kane.
Ballymena United: Blayney, T. Kane, McBride, McNally (Taylor 59), Henderson, Jenkins, Cushley (Ruddy 66), Faulkner, Ervin, McVey, Frazer. Subs not used: Nelson, E. Kane, Millar.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).