Carrick Rangers

New Year’s Day hangover

New Year’s Day brought title-challenging Coleraine to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena for the opening Danske Bank Premiership of 2020. Carrick enjoyed much of the early play, without really threatening the visiting goalkeeper.

Former Carrick player, Aaron Traynor, eventually scored the opening goal for the Bannsiders after the home defence failed to deal with a long ball into the box. Substitute Alex Gawne doubled the lead before Liam McAuley saved a penalty to keep the scoreline respectable.

Up for the Cup

In a break from the league, Carrick travelled to Bangor to take on Bluefin Sport Championship side Ards in the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup. Rangers took an early lead as Michael Surgenor scored with a header from a corner.

Despite dominating play, it took a Daniel Kelly headed goal just after the interval for the scoreline to be extended. Ards pulled a goal back, but Lloyd Anderson scored a decisive third to see Rangers into the next round.

Back to Earth with a bang

During the Friday night league game under the floodlights at Inver Park, Carrick Rangers were given something of a footballing lesson by their neighbours Larne.

In a completely one-sided affair, the home side scored four times without reply. The defensive strength that had been the mainstay of Carrick’s relative success this season crumbled, as the Inver men looked likely to score every time they crossed the half-way line.

An unexpected bonus

The visit of Cliftonville to Carrickfergus brought an element of anxiety to the home supporters. The previous league defeats in the month suggested that Rangers were in for a difficult afternoon.

By 4.50 pm, however, the final whistle had blown on a terrific team performance which was rewarded with all the points as substitute Anderson scored the only game of the match midway through the second half.

Gone in Sixty Seconds

The final fixture of the month ended in pure drama.

Playing against bottom side Warrenpoint at home, Rangers somewhat undeservedly took the lead in the first half through a Caolan Loughran penalty.

Warrenpoint played better than their league position suggested, but Carrick seemed to have secured a vital win as the match entered the final minute of added time. A hopeful long ball into the heart of the Carrick defence was flicked on, and as a visiting player raced onto it he was brought down in the penalty area.

The subsequent spot-kick was dispatched. Carrick restarted the match, but immediately conceded a needless free kick on the centre circle. Again, the ball was pumped into the area, headed back across goal to be blasted into an unguarded net.

In less than a minute, Carrick had gone from 18 points clear of automatic relegation to just 12!

January Transfer Window

During the window, Carrick brought in five new players:

Goalkeeper Harry Doherty (Cockhill Celtic); left-sided defender/midfielder Lee Colligan (unattached); and strikers Alex Gawne (who had scored against Carrick earlier in the month) on loan from Coleraine, Jamie Dunne (Institute), Daniel Reynolds (Linfield, loan) and Darren Murray (Glentoran, loan).

Leaving the club were:

Ashton McDermott to Bangor; Stewart Nixon (hat-trick hero of December) to Coleraine; and Guillaume Keke (Dungannon Swifts).