Nedas Maciulaitis: There's more pressure on Carrick Rangers this season - but that's not a bad thing
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It has been a rollercoaster season to date for the Loughview Leisure Arena outfit with the highs of already picking up more points against top-six teams in this campaign than they managed all of last term combined with losing nine of 16 league outings.
There was added expectation placed on the County Antrim side coming into the new season with an impressive summer transfer window followed by American businessman Michael Smith becoming majority shareholder in August.
This week, they announced a new partnership with US-based company Fan Owned Club with the aim of establishing the club as a “globally recognised brand”.
With big ambitions on and off the pitch, Maciulaitis, who came off the bench to score twice in last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Dungannon Swifts, is loving life with Carrick after joining from Loughgall in January.
"There's a buzz around the club,” he said. “Everybody is excited to see what the new owner is going to do and there's already been things put in place that are positive.
"It will be interesting to see what happens in the future and hopefully the club can progress.
"Michael has came in and he has put standards in place. He has told everyone what he expects.
"There's more pressure there but that's good and with the new partnership in the US you want to impress people over there.
"There's more pressure, but that's not a bad thing."
The 24-year-old also praised the impact that manager King has had on his career since arriving at Carrick with the former Northern Ireland youth international running over to his boss after burying a sublime volley at Stangmore Park.
Alongside having a burning passion and desire to succeed, Maciulaitis says it’s how the ex-Linfield ace conducts himself off the pitch too that makes him great.
"Stuarty is great,” he added. “He calls me in and has chats with me because he knows I can do better and I know that too.
"Having someone there who wants to have those personal conversations with you and wants to get to know you definitely helps – that's why I ran over to him.
"It's good having Stuarty there and his man management is great.
"Even last week when we'd had a few disappointing results he pulled me in just to have a chat and see how things are going in life.
"They are small things but they definitely help."
Cliftonville won the last meeting between these sides 4-0 at Solitude in August with Ben Wilson – the Premiership’s current top scorer – opening his Reds account.
While Jim Magilton’s side have the best top-flight defensive record (they’ve conceded only nine in 16 matches), Carrick’s leaking of 41 goals means they’ve the joint-worst alongside Newry City.
However, just 10 of those have been shipped at home – only Cliftonville, Crusaders and Larne can boast a better return than that – and Maciulaitis wants to make it a more difficult afternoon for their visitors this time around.
"That last game against Cliftonville was very frustrating,” he said. “We went a few goals down early in the game and it killed it.
"It will be a different game at our place. We'll make it a lot tighter and we're full of confidence at the moment."