Carrick Rangers confound the critics (and some of their own fans)
In my preview piece on Carrick Rangers’ season, I wrote: “Nine months of pain, despair, and disappointment will end with Carrick Rangers condemned to relegation.”
This was not my assertion, but a summary of what pundits and most fans (including some of their own!) were predicting.
One month into those nine, and other than an opening day 2-0 defeat at the National Stadium, there has been little to support this comment.
Manager David McAlinden’s rebuilt squad has amassed five points from the first four games. But for a penalty miss by Ben Roy (who returned to Carrick from Portadown a week earlier) in the 1-1 draw with Ballymena at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena and a late block by a Glentoran defender in a similar scoreline at the Oval, Rangers would have been even better positioned.
The final game in August saw the team put in a performance that had the home fans purring. Ballinamallard were fortunate to leave on the end of a 2-0 reversal. Their ‘keeper Richard Brush single-handedly kept the scoreline respectable as wave after wave of Carrick attacks closed in on him.
It’s a simple game
The relative success seems to boil down to a simple mantra: pace, press, punish.
Apart from the defensive formation understandably deployed against Linfield, Rangers have been effective using the pace and movement of a front two, supported by the wide men. Eye-catching goals by youngster Andrew Mooney have captured people’s attention, but Lee Chapman on the right of midfield and Mark Edgar on the opposite flank have been just as impressive.
Unsung heroes Paddy McNally and a rejuvenated Denver Gage have been mountainous at the back and threatening from set pieces. The centre of midfield has operated at an energy level that is exhausting just to watch.
Behind them, Harry Doherty has proved to be a more than able replacement for Brian Neeson, with two penalty saves (versus Linfield and Ballinamallard) just adding the icing to some terrific displays.
In the final game of the month, Dergview made the long trip to Carrickfergus for the midweek Bet McClean League Cup. A double from Martin Maybin added to Mooney’s opener, secured a comfortable 3-0 win.
Recipe for success?
Early days, I know, but watching Carrick so far has been entertaining as well as rewarding.
Is that the sound of ovens going on to preheat, and ingredients for humble pie being prepared?