Glentoran’s early-season struggles suffered another setback on Saturday as Carrick Rangers’ first victory of the season left the East Belfast men with two defeats from the opening three games.
The Eastenders’ new-look panel - with six fresh recruits led by big-money striker Nacho Novo - must regroup ahead of a trip to Portadown on Saturday.
“We are dominating games and not scoring goals,” said manager Alan Kernaghan after this 1-0 home defeat by a Carrick side which had conceded four goals in both their opening Danske Bank Premiership games.
Kieran Harding’s boys came to the Oval like lambs to the slaughter after comprehensive defeats by Irish Cup holders Glenavon and double Premiership champions Crusaders.
“We always knew it was going to be a difficult start with Glenavon, Crusaders and Glentoran,” admitted Harding. “But we also needed these tough games to try to bed in as a team with all the new players we have at the club.
“Against Glenavon in the opening game we had 10 players who had not featured against them the last time the teams met and in the second half we looked it.
“In the Crusaders game, we gelled a bit better and there was just a goal in it until we had a man sent off.
“But against Glentoran we produced a superb team performance.
“The back four were magnificent and Brian Neeson showed why he is rated within the game as one of the best goalkeepers around.”
Harding’s team produced a disciplined, hard-working display and found a focal point in veteran striker Miguel Chines.
He had the ‘X’ Factor and scored the winning goal after 31 minutes, which he stuck in the net with casual aplomb after Brian McCaul played him in.
“Mark Clarke played a great forward ball, Bru (Brian McCaul) managed to stay onside and fortunately my effort went in,” beamed a delighted Chines after the game. “We should have scored earlier when I missed a chance and I thought it would come back to bite us but we kept them out.”
Glens supremo Kernaghan rued the defensive issues that, in the end, cost his side the game.
“One poor defensive decision when we try to play offside and get caught, cost us,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, although we got into many good positions we simply did not have enough shots on goal.
“There were lots of balls into the box but we failed to get on the end of them.
“The confidence we had in pre-season seems to have waned and we need to get back on track at Portadown.”
Carrick’s concerns lie elsewhere - with a huge home game in prospect against Ballinamallard United, whom the bookies reckon will be involved in the end-of-season relegation dog-fight with Saturday’s opponents.
“That promises to be yet another huge game” admits Carrick boss Harding. “We now have our first win, a clean sheet and three points on the board, which makes me a very happy, not to mention relieved, manager.”
Star man Chines sees the victory as a real boost for the team and felt it was well deserved.
“It was very hard work but we managed to keep going and defended very well,” he said. “With myself missing pre-season my legs were gone near the end but we managed to see it out.
“Hopefully we can kick on from here as it was a fantastic defensive and team performance.”