Fixtures begin to pile up for Rangers

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Carrick Rangers haven’t played a league match since December 1. And, as the weather takes its toll, frustration is growing among the club’s fans with football becoming little more than an occasional distraction to the poor alternatives available to the dedicated clubman on Saturday afternoons. And the manager, Michael Hughes, admits it’s becoming a source of concern.

In a nutshell, since that 1-1 derby draw in the league against Larne at the turn of December, the sum total of Carrick outings has been an Irish Cup exit to Lurgan Celtic, and a penalty shoot-out defeat to Amateur League side Immaculata in the Intermediate Cup on January 5.

The latest disappointment came with the postponement of Saturday’s league match at home to Loughgall. It means Rangers are still languishing in the lower reaches of the table, with just nine of their 24 Championship One games played.

“It is starting to become a wee bit concerning alright,” Hughes said. “It has been very stop-start and we are building a worrying backlog of games. It is frustrating, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s really not a lot you can do about it when the weather is against you.”

“It certainly would be nice to get a few games played and hopefully secure the points to ease our current position. I know people look at the table and see that we have played fewer matches than the rest, but games in hands guarantee nothing. You must win them for them to be of any benefit.

“The players are keen to get some action, of course, because it’s not nice training, training and training again and finding there’s nothing for them at the end of the week only the prospect of more training.

“The loss of Saturday’s fixture against Loughgall was probably looking very likely from as early as Wednesday, with incessant rain making the Taylor’s Avenue pitch unplayable. One corner in particular is a problem and we’ll have guys out with pitchforks trying to get the water away. It’s something that will be addressed in the close season with a bit more drainage required there.

“In a worst case scenario, we would maybe be able to fit in a few of the outstanding away fixtures and the league officials are trying to help us out by rearranging some matches when opposition is available, that subject to them not having commitments in cup competitions,” revealed Hughes, who confirmed that four players have now departed Taylor’s Avenue.

Top scorer Sencer Yilmaz has returned to Larne and has been joined at Inver Park by left-back Robbie-Lee Crawford, Kyle Owens has moved to Dundela and experienced striker Rory McGilloway has chosen to quit football.

Hughes said he would have liked to have kept 33-year-old McGilloway. “He’s very quick and experienced. While I couldn’t be sure of giving him a regular starting place, he is somebody I’d like to still be around the club.”

He added: “In terms of incoming players, I tried very hard for a few last week but nothing has materialised and I am still keen to have one striker, probably two, signed before the transfer deadline next week. I have one who has agreed to come and it’s about getting down to the relevant details.

“But I am still keen to bolster our numbers and not be forcing young players to come through to quickly,” assured the manager, whose next scheduled outing is away to Dergview in the league on Saturday week.

Report by Kevin Hughes