Ballymena United spurned a two goal lead as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Carrick Rangers at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
David Cushley continued his rich vein of goalscoring form as he notched his fourth and fifth goals in United’s last four games as the Sky Blues looked to be heading to victory.
But late goals from Ryan Kane and Ben Roy denied United a win on their first competitive game at the former Taylor’s Avenue for 12 years.
There was an early scare for Ballymena as Johnny Taylor slipped as he tried to defend a long ball leaving Miguel Chines racing clear but as he tried to cut inside the covering Kyle McVey, the defender got enough of a touch on the ball to deflect it off Chines’ knee and it ran harmlessly through to Dwayne nelson.
The home side’s first opening came on seven minutes when Willie Faulkner, on the edge of the penalty area, nodded the ball down into the path of Allan Jenkins’ whose first-time volley his the side netting.
Ballymena had another opening on 19 minutes as David Cushley burst down the left and his low cross was deflected to safety off the knee of Carrick keeper Brian Neeson.
Aaron Traynor saw his shot deflected over for Carrick before United came close with the best chance of the half.
Tony Kane released Allan Jenkins down the right hand channel and he cut the ball back for the in-rushing David Cushley. The winger, looking to score for the fourth game in succession produced a typically full-blooded shot but Carrick defender Ryan Kane threw himself full length to block what looked a certain goal.
Carrick’s best opening came a minute before the break when Mark Surgenor’s flick on sent Chines racing through an exposed Ballymena defence.
The striker lobbed the ball over the advancing Nelson but could only watch as the ball dropped agonisingly just over the crossbar.
Ballymena had an early opening in the second period when Jenkins’ shot on the turn went wide, with the Scot furious that referee Ian McNabb signalled a goal kick, with Jenkins feeling that keeper Neeson had got a decisive touch.
Carrick spurned a glorious opening on 51 minutes when Adam Dick somehow eluded Ballymena’s offside trap and bore down on goal but his rushed effort was straight at Dwayne Nelson, who parried the ball into the air to safety.
And that miss proved very costly as United went in front on 56 minutes.
It came from Johnny Taylor’s long clearance from defence which sailed over the Carrick defence and Cushley held off Ryan Kane before steering a shot past Neeson into the far corner.
The home side paid for more sub-standard defending on 64 minutes when Jim Ervin’s ball forward was missed by Ryan Kane leaving Willie Faulkner in a good position.
The winger unselfishly laid the ball off to the clear-break Cushley who rounded Neeson and then steadied himself before firing through a posse of back-tracking defenders on the goal-line.
It looked as though that goal might give United some breathing space but they were pegged back on 71 minutes when Carrick were awarded a disputed free kick after Kyle McVey was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul as he made a defensive header.
Ryan Kane took the resultant free kick and curled it around the wall to bring Rangers back into the game.
Willie Faulkner wasted a good chance to restore Ballymena’s two-goal advantage when he latched onto Cushley’s flick-on but blazed his shot over and instead it was the home side who equalised with nine minutes to go when the ball broke for Ben Roy whose effort from inside the box deflected past Nelson through a ruck of players.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, Kane, Surgenor, Doyle, Aaron Traynor, Taggart, Harmon, Johnston (sub McNeill 68), McCloskey, Dick (sub Roy 60), Chines (sub Browne 68). Subs (not used): Keenan, Miskimmin.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Ervin, McVey, Taylor, Ruddy, Faulkner, Kane, Taggart (sub Shevlin 83), Gawley (sub Millar 72), Jenkins, Cushley. Subs (not used): McBride, Magennis, E Kane.
Referee: Ian McNabb (Glengormley).