Just three games for Carrick Rangers in January, in stark contrast to the hectic, fixture-filled December: two in the Bluefin Sport Championship and one in the Tennent’s Irish Cup.

First up, was a trip to the other side of Belfast Lough to eliminate Danske Bank Premiership side Ards from the Irish Cup. The visitors were much the better side throughout, and led through a Daniel Kelly volley at the break. Opportunities to extend the lead came and went, before ‘keeper Aaron Hogg saved a late penalty to ensure Rangers progressed to the next round. The victors will travel to County Fermanagh to take on Ballinamallard United next month.

After a free Saturday, due to other clubs to completing re-arranged league fixtures, Rangers played out an entertaining scoreless draw at Dundela’s Wilgar Park. A very even, frantic, encounter provided few clear cut scoring chances. The hosts came closest to securing the points despite being reduced to ten men, with Hogg pulling off an outstanding full-stretch save to ensure a share of the spoils.

In a rich man’s world

The final fixture, another away from home, took Rangers to money-laden champions-elect Larne. The unavailability of five key Carrick players through a combination of suspension, injury and work commitments meant the game was a one-sided affair. The home side dominated throughout the ninety minutes, and the 4-0 scoreline was fully merited.

The single point from the two league games completed this month saw Rangers drop to third place in the table, behind a resurgent Portadown. With the post-split fixtures pitting the top sides against each other until the end of the season, every game will be important, and difficult. Considering the poor start to the campaign back in August, Carrick fans are delighted to still be in the hunt for promotion/relegation playoffs.

Big month ahead.