As I prepared myself to write this monthly review, I though it was pointless. Actually, it WAS pointless. Not a single one added to the league tally, exits from the Bet McLeans League Cup and Toals County Antrim Shield and, more worryingly, only one goal scored in the whole month. Not hard to select the Goal of the Month winner (soon to become the Month of the Goal competition).
A trip to Solitude ended with a 3-0 loss, with a hard-working, defensive display. There was little, other than effort, for the Amber Army to cheer as their former favourite, Bam Neeson, was untroubled in the Cliftonville nets.
Controversy surrounded Carrick’s 2-0 home loss in the proverbial six-pointer against fellow strugglers Warrenpoint. With the game scoreless, fullback Aaron Smyth was shown a red card for what can only be described as a textbook slide tackle. TV replays and still photographs showed that Smyth was the aggrieved, rather than the aggressor. The ten men eventuality succumbed to a 2-0 reversal.
Smyth sat out the League Cup quarter-final when Cliftonville visited the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena midweek. Despite going behind, Carrick raised their game after the interval. Only the woodwork prevented captain Mark Surgenor from taking the game into extra time. Thus ended any hopes of repeating last year’s final appearance.
A short trip down the Shore Road was to be a painful one. An absolutely rampant Crusaders side ripped through the Carrick team in waves, scoring seven times, though conceding a Stuart McMullan header to blot their copybook. This rare sight of a goal sent the small travelling support into sarcastic rapture.
The gulf between the top four sides and those nearest the foot of table is monumental, but a fruitless visit to Stangmore Park suggests the gap between Carrick and a side just a few places above them is alarming. 4-0 down at half-time, a completely dispirited team played out the final 45 minutes without conceding, or creating a clear-cut chance. Dungannon also appeared to simply go through the motions after the interval, much to the relief of the Amber Army.
Whatever was said over the following few days seemed to have had some effect as Carrick took on Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield. From the outset, it was clear there would be no repeat of the humiliation a few weeks earlier. A hard-working, organised display kept the Crues largely at bay, but a solitary first-half goal was enough for the North Belfast side reach the final. Mark Clarke’s late second yellow card ended any prospect of a comeback.
Despite losing all games in November, there are plenty of point still up for grabs. There are fine margins between winning and losing, and I have no doubt that we have players who are capable of much better displays.
Time to put the mensis horribilis behind us, and pick up the points that will secure Premiership football in Carrickfergus for at least another year.
Fingers crossed that my December review will not be pointless!