A Sloppy Start
October’s fixtures opened with the visit of Coleraine to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena. The Bannsiders were on then-match unbeaten run, and resurgent following the re-appointment of Oran Kearney as manager. The visitors took an early lead, but as in many games so far this campaign Carrick matched their opponents and deservedly equalised through a Caolan Loughran penalty just before half-time.
After the interval, though, the superior quality in the Coleraine squad paid dividends. They repeatedly broke through the Rangers’ defensive line, and re-took the lead when Loughran put past his own ‘keeper in trying to clear a Coleraine effort. With their tails up, it was no surprise that the title-challengers drove home their advantage, with further goals from Aaron Jarvis and former Carrick full-back Aaron Traynor.
Carrick Rangers 1-4 Coleraine
A short trip to the Oval promised much but ultimately failed to deliver. Guillame Keke scored his first goal for the club, turning neatly inside the box to slot home the opening goal against Glentoran. Carrick crafted several other chances in the first half: Loughran clipped the crossbar from a 25-yard free kick and Stewart Nixon dithered just a little too long when well placed and saw his effort blocked on the line. Rangers paid for these missed opportunities when very poor marking allowed the Glens to equalise just before the break.
The game was over as a contest within ten minutes of the re-start. Individual defensive errors allowed the hosts to build a comfortable two-goal lead that their performance had scarcely deserved. With the wind taken from their sails, Rangers failed to make a dent on the East Belfast side’s defence.
Glentoran 3-1 Carrick Rangers
Tightening the Defence
Just a couple of weeks after the controversial defeat at Stangmore Park, Carrick entertained Dungannon Swifts at Taylors Avenue. In a very evenly contested opening, both sides had chances to score only to be denied by expert goalkeeping. Rangers took the lead, though, on 26 minutes. James Ferrin picked the ball up on the right of the penalty area with his back to goal. In a turn more expected of a winger, he created the space needed to plant a cross perfectly onto the head of Daniel Kelly, who made no mistake from six yards out.
After the break Aaron Hogg twice denied the visitors an equaliser, and at the other end only a fingertip save by Niall Morgan prevented Michael Smith extending the lead. During a nervy final ten minutes, the Carrick defence held firm to secure a valuable win.
Carrick Rangers 1-0 Dungannon Swifts
Basement side Warrenpoint Town visited Carrickfergus on the back of a midweek 7-0 drubbing by Linfield. There was an apparent nervousness within both sides during this relegation six-pointer. In a high-intensity, but low-quality encounter, Carrick were held at bay by an inspired Berraat Turker in the visitor’s nets. He twice blocked efforts at point black range in the first half and seemed to have salvaged a point for his team with a late save from a Nixon penalty.
With time almost up, substitute Lloyd Anderson got on the end of a perfect Nixon cross to glance the ball home, ensuring his side’s crucial victory.
Carrick Rangers 1-0 Warrenpoint Town
Six points from four games during October has helped Carrick Rangers put just a valuable chink of light between themselves and the relegation places. Nine points ahead of bottom placed Warrenpoint, six clear of the play-off spot occupied by Institute. Even more remarkable, only four points behind sixth place!
Six difficult fixtures during November, though. No chickens being counted just yet.