Joe McNeill has left Carrick Rangers and returned to Crumlin Star.
It’s a blow to Rangers boss Gary Haveron, who is striving to steer his boys clear of the Danske Bank Premiership relegation zone.
Ex-Cliftonville midfielder McNeill has been a regular in the Rangers line-up this season, but has made the switch to his former club for ‘personal reasons’.
Carrick face a massive test of character on Friday when they roll out the welcome mat for Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon – weather permitting – at the Loughshore Hotel Arena.
“Joe’s departure was a shock for everyone,” said Rangers midfielder Barry Johnston.
“But he had his mind made up to return to Crumlin Star.
“We can’t afford to dwell on it as we face another big challenge against Glenavon.”
Rangers have opened up a nine-point gap on basement boys Warrenpoint Town, courtesy of a battling draw at Milltown on Boxing Day.
Seasoned campaigner Johnston, a member of Cliftonville’s title-winning squad, is aware that today’s clash with Glenavon will be a different proposition.
“They have match winners all over the pitch,” he added.
“They’ve Daniel Kearns and big Eoin Bradley up front – they are a handful.
“Hopefully, our ground staff will have the pitch ready. There is just one area that is causing the problem. We’ve developed a nine point cushion, but there is not a massive gulf between most teams in this league.”