The opening month of Carrick Rangers’ season had suggested that the wheels had come off any prospects of a decent campaign. September, though, showed signs that stabilisers have been attached to address the wobble.
Dergview made the long trek from Castlederg for a Friday night Bluefin Sport Championship fixture under the lights at the Belfast Loughshore Arena. The visitors arrived in good form, but Carrick put in a solid performance, securing three much-welcomed points through a solitary Stewart Nixon strike.
The following week, the travelling Amber Army looked on as Rangers played PSNI at Newforge. Despite dominating the first half, by some distance, the visiting defence was undone by a long ball through the middle, allowing an unmarked Adamczyk to lob Hogg. The capitulation after conceding was palpable, with the goal giving the hosts more confidence, but eliciting exactly the opposite reaction from their opponents. It was no surprise, then, that PSNI extended their lead through Moody late in the second half to secure the unexpected victory.
The midweek visit of neighbours, Larne, for a Country Antrim Shield clash was a welcome distraction from the league and provided an early opportunity to see the new-look, well-backed rejuvenated sleeping giant at first hand. Carrick took on the challenge, creating several goal scoring chances before becoming unstuck on the stroke of half-time. After the interval, the hosts struggled to see much of the ball, as the visitors retained possession at ease, adding a second goal to reach the next round.
Reshuffling The Pack
There were several changes in the team as Rangers squared up against Ballyclare Comrades at home. Mark Surgenor moved into the back three and Ashton McDermott made a start in central midfield. These changes contributed to a one-sided encounter, with the former expertly marshalling the defensive unit and the latter linking up play. Goals from Nixon and Reece Neale were fair rewards from a comprehensive team display.
The longest trip of the season took Rangers to County Fermanagh to take on Ballinamallard. As with the previous game, the visitors played some terrific football. Prolific Michael Smith scored both goals in a 2-1 win, the ‘Ducks’ pulling their goal back with a late penalty.
Nine points from a possible twelve in the league. A more than decent showing against the top team at Championship level in the County Antrim Shield. Just one below-par showing. I’d have taken that before the month started.