November was pointless, December was better but still winless. The two points picked up by Carrick Rangers during the festive month were the only they secured since a 2-1 win over Dungannon Swifts on the 14th of October!
League leaders Coleraine were the first opponents, as they visited the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena. The Bannsiders took an early lead, but the expected home side capitulation failed to materialise. Instead, Rangers responded well to the setback, and equalised through a peach of a free kick from Mark Edgar. The match was finely balanced, with Carrick almost snatching a lead, but for an acrobatic overhead clearance by Aaron Traynor. The visitors superior quality finally shone through as two late strikes took the points.
The following week, things looked promising when Eamon McAllister gave Carrick the lead just before half time at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Andrew Mooney shot straight at the keeper midway through the second period, and this turned out to be a pivotal moment as Ballymena scored three quickfire goals to inflict a ninth straight defeat in all competitions. The club’s unwanted record of twelve consecutive defeats looked ominously close.
When Glentoran took the lead at Taylors Avenue, another step towards that record seemed a real possibility. The half time teamtalk, though, had the desired effect as Rangers launched wave after wave of attacks, mainly down the flanks. With the away side dropping deeper and deeper, an equaliser arrived in the final minute as Lee Chapman slotted home at the back post. A point at last!
A trip to Bangor on Boxing Day to take on Ards was an anti-climax, with Rangers putting in an insipid display. A disastrous defensive error led to the only goal if the game. Paddy McNally and Daniel Larmour both went for, and missed, a hopeful punt upfield leaving an Ards striker on his own 12 yards from goal, easily dispatching the ball past an exposed Harry Doherty.
The final game on 2017 saw Ballinamallard make the long trek to Carrickfergus for a Friday evening encounter. The eventual 2-2 scoreline (Carrick’s goals from Michael Smith and Denver Gage sandwiched between the Ducks opener and equaliser) belied the overall poor quality of football on display. With the visitors leading at half time, a verbal exchange between the management teams spilled over into an unsightly confrontation. During the interval the referee dismissed David McAlinden and his County Fermanagh counterpart from the field of play, leaving both watching on from the sidelines for the second half.
Rangers fans were offered a late Christmas present when the club announced two new additions to the squad: forward Brendan Glackin from Oldham and defender Damien McNulty formerly of Finn Harps. Carrick fans, who have become accustomed to relegation battles, hope these signing, plus a few more expected in January, will hit the ground running.