After a quite disastrous September, a surprisingly comfortable League Cup victory over Glentoran at the Oval got Carrick Rangers’ October fixtures off to a great start. In a game where the hosts barely mustered an effort on target, Mark Edgar scored direct from a free-kick in the second half. To be honest, the scoreline flattered the East Belfast side who failed to get into the game, much to the obvious disgruntlement of their supporters. The only downside for Carrick was the injury to top scorer Andrew Mooney who was taken to hospital with a horrendous gash to his leg, leaving him unable to play until the final game of the month.
The first Danske Bank Premier League match brought Dungannon Swifts to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena. For the first 65 minutes, the County Tyrone side dominated the game, taking a 1-0 lead and squandering a multitude of chances. The game was turned on its head with the introduction of Mikel Suarez from the bench. Within a few minutes of his arrival the forward won a header to feed Lee Chapman who reached the ball just before the Swifts’ goalkeeper and calmly rolled the ball into the net. Two minutes later, the towering Suarez rose at the back post to nod the ball on to the head of Michael Smith who stretched to nod the ball over the line. Rangers held on to secure the three points in what was a true smash and grab result.
The following Saturday’s trip to Ballinamallard brought the Carrick fans back down to earth with a bang. The home side had earned just one point from their opening ten games, but dominated from first whistle to last. The game was played with Storm Brian in full flight, and the Mallards used the strong tail wind to their advantage, taking an early lead and then getting a firm grip on the match with a wind-assisted long range effort just before the break. Rangers failed to make the most of the gale in the second half and struggled to muster an effort on target, as the home early side earned their first win of the campaign. The late dismissal of Edgar rubbed salt into the wound.
There was an immediate opportunity to redeem themselves against Dundela in the Toals County Antrim Shield. The Premier Intermediate League side were no match for Rangers at Taylors Avenue, as an early goal by Denver Gage settled any nerves and a powerful back-post header by Suarez from an inch perfect Chapman cross had Carrick in full control. Chapman scored a third, before the Duns pulled a goal back, but the game was put beyond all doubt when Gavin Taggart netted a penalty. A last gasp goal by the visitors was nothing more than a consolation prize.
The month ended with the visit of second-placed Glenavon to Carrickfergus. Despite plenty of effort and commitment from the home side, the Lurgan Blues goalkeeper was seldom troubled. A goal with the last kick of the first half and a penalty in the final moments of the second gave the visitors a comfortable 2-0 win. The scoreline could have been more but for another terrific performance from Rangers’ ‘keeper Harry Doherty who pulled off a string of fabulous saves.
So, as the clocks roll back an hour, Carrick are third bottom of the league having accumulated nine points from twelve games, but are through to the quarter-finals of the League Cup, where they have had a home draw against Cliftonville, and are waiting to see who they will meet in the semi-final of the County Antrim Shield.
The Amber Army may be disappointed with that crucial loss in County Fermanagh, but overall the month had more highs than lows.
Big month ahead.