It was quite a month for Carrick Rangers as they maintained their good form in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Close, but no cigar
First up was a visit to the National Stadium to take on last season’s champions, Linfield. Although Carrick, understandably, were set up in a more defensive manner than usual, they took the game to their hosts at any opportunity. Chances were few and far in between for both sides, but it was the Blues who took the lead moments before the interval.
There was no capitulation by the visitors, though, as they counter-attacked whenever possible. Carrick wasted a couple of half-chances before Linfield scored their second goal on the hour. Still, Carrick pressed and should have pulled a goal back when Guillaume Keke collected a wayward pass, rounded a defender and the ‘keeper only to see his tame effort cleared off the line.
Linfield 2-0 Carrick Rangers
Quick off the mark
Carrick Rangers scored their fastest top-flight goal when Daniel Kelly was first to the ball in a penalty box scramble to ram it home after just 45 seconds. The visitors were on top form, creating several good scoring opportunities, but Ballymena United equalised through a simple back-post header from a deep corner. Unbowed, Rangers continued to press forward. It was no surprise when they regained the lead through a Lee Chapman tap in.
Further chances were squandered as Carrick’s passing and movement threatened time after time. The hosts came more into the game in the final quarter of an hour, choosing to go with longer balls into the box. The Carrick defence stood strong though, to earn the points.
Ballymena United 1-2 Carrick Rangers
The home game against Crusaders was played under the floodlights on a Friday evening. Rangers took the lead after a quarter of an hour when Keke collected a Lloyd Anderson through ball, clipped the ball over an onrushing defender and then blasted home from the edge of the box. The home side should have extended their lead as their forward play carved out several good chances.
The failure to convert these proved costly as the Shore Road men equalised on the hour. Carrick continued to attack with pace, with the visiting ‘keeper pulling off a series of saves. Carrick’s hearts were broken when a deflection took the ball past Aaron Hogg on the 93rd minute. The disappointment turned into desperation as virtually the whole Rangers’ team charged forward from the restart. Unfortunately, the ball broke to their opponents who counter-attacked into an almost empty half of the pitch to score a third.
Carrick Rangers 1-3 Crusaders
Ooh, that’s soft
Buoyed by recent performances, Rangers attacked Coleraine right from the kick-off. Anderson opened the scoring with a cool finish on 16 minutes. The home side equalised six minutes later, but Carrick maintained their attacking mentality. New signing Sachem put Carrick ahead again on his first start for the club just before the interval and was denied a second after the break when his goalbound effort hit one of his own players on the line. James Ferrin had a header cleared off the line, as Rangers piled on the pressure.
The home side, however, were offered a reprieve when they were awarded the softest of soft penalties, which was scored after a retake. The title challengers scored minutes from the end to undeservedly take the spoils.
Coleraine 3-2 Carrick Rangers
It’s been coming
Today was the day when Carrick finally got the result their attacking play had been threatening. Glenavon came to the Belfast Loughshore Arena in reasonable form, having beaten Linfield and Institute in their previous two league games. They were completely outplayed, however, by a rampant home side. Carrick took the lead after a quarter of an hour as Jerry Thompson scored his first goal for the club. When former Rangers captain Aaron Harmon equalised ten minutes later, it was against the run of play. Carrick were relentlessly attacking throughout the half and retook the lead just before the interval as Stewart Nixon rifled home from distance.
The second half was simply breathless. Keke put Carrick in control, scoring just 8 seconds after the restart. Ferrin scored with a powerful header eight minutes later. Chapman hit a fifth on the hour and Michael Smith’s strike with a quarter of an hour left was the cherry on the icing on the cake. Glenavon pulled back a late consolation goal.
This result had the Amber Army checking the archives to confirm that this was Carrick’s biggest win in the top flight. In all honesty, it could have been double figures.
Carrick Rangers 6-2 Glenavon
What a month!
Fastest ever goal in the top flight, biggest win at this level, and the team looked dangerous in every fixture. Still a long way to go, I know, but Carrick are not the pushovers they were in their relegation season a couple of years ago. To put this into context, Rangers only scored 18 goals in that entire league campaign: this November they netted 11 times.