Carrick Rangers’ steady improvement continued with a bag full of points collected during December.

The opening day of the month took manager Niall Currie back to his previous club as his new charges took on Portadown at Shamrock Park. Two penalties scored by Michael Smith, both for fouls on Stewart Nixon were fair reward for a comfortable performance. The only downside was the injury to captain Mark Surgenor who landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge.

The injury prevented Surgenor from appearing against Harland & Wolff Welders the following week at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena. His absence from the heart of the defence was exploited by the visitors who ran the defensive line ragged, eventually running out 4-1 winners. Daniel Kelly’s goal proved to be just a consolation.

Surgenor returned for the trip to Loughgall, one of the few games played in Northern Ireland that weekend as torrential rain swept across the country. Rangers earned a point, but they missed several opportunities to add to Kelly’s goal before the hosts equalised. A game that the visitors really should have put away, but were made to hold firm for a draw as they played out the final quarter of the match with ten men, following Marty Murray’s dismissal.

A Port in a storm

The re-arranged home match against Portadown was a great advert for the Bluefin Sport Championship. Carrick played some super attacking football, supplemented with a resolute defence. It was no surprise that Rangers repeated the same scoreline from earlier in the month; Kelly and Smith scoring the goals in the second half. The visitors lost their composure, as a player was dismissed for dissent after Carrick were awarded a penalty that Smith subsequently failed to convert. They had another red-carded for an off-the-ball tangle. In between, Carrick’s Ashton McDermott also saw red as his aerial challenge was harshly deemed to have been dangerous.

On Boxing Day, Limavady were put to the sword in a one-sided contest. Carrick’s free flowing football was again to the fore in a 3-1 win with the scoreline somewhat flattering the visitors. Caolan Loughran scored early in the game, Lloyd Anderson netted a minute after the interval and Nixon put the result beyond doubt even though Limavady pulled a late goal back.

The year ended with runaway Championship leaders Larne coming to town. Carrick put in the their best performance of the season to date in front of a bumper crowd to win in style. The visiting goalkeeper was kept busy throughout, but was beaten twice as Larne scored an own goal during a goalmouth scramble and then Kelly maintained his scoring form with a powerful header.

Six games in the month, 13 points, a top six place secured and currently second in the table. Oh, and Currie just extended his contract until the end of next season!

That’ll do for now.