Carrick Rangers 2 Glentoran 2
Colin Nixon may have saved a point for Glentoran against Carrick Rangers, but the skipper knows that a draw against the relegation threatened side does little to lift the gloom at The Oval.
It was Nixon who was on hand with an 86th minute equaliser to spare Glentoran the humiliation of another shock defeat just seven days on from their Irish Cup elimination by Newington YC.
Despite that relief, the experienced defender is nevertheless aware that this was another low in an already miserable season, which is in grave danger of not delivering the European qualification that Glentoran have grown accustomed to over the years.
The east Belfast side now sit fifth in the Carling Premiership table, above Crusaders on goal difference, and will need to make up an 11-point gap on third place if they are to land a continental berth — although fourth spot could prove sufficient depending on who wins the Irish Cup.
Nixon knows the importance of producing a strong end to the campaign but admits Saturday’s display was below par.
“We played very, very poorly,” he said.
“If we're being honest, we were lucky to get away with a draw and, with no disrespect meant to Carrick Rangers, a draw against them is not the sort of result we're looking for.”
The Irish League's most successful manager Roy Coyle is currently holding the fort while chairman Terence Brannigan and his board sift through applications for the managerial post vacated by Scott Young last weekend.
Nixon wants to see the club take their time over the appointment and secure the right man for the job.
“I'm happy to play under whoever is appointed, there are better people than me placed to decide who the next manager should be,” he added.
“For me, the chairman and the board should take their time and look around and weigh up all their options. We've got to make sure we get the right man for the job.
“I'm not even suggesting Scott Young wasn't the right appointment at the time, what I'm saying is we've got to make sure we get the best man available.”
In the meantime, ‘Nicky’ is happy to have his old boss Coyle back in the dugout.
He continued: “Roy's experience is second to none and we're grateful to have him.
“It's a difficult job, but he is certainly the right man to keep us ticking over until a new man is found.”
Coyle was understandably frustrated with the draw, particularly after a good start to his tenure as caretaker manager when the Glens brushed aside Ballymena United 3-0 on Tuesday evening.
“We came here with a lot of confidence after the win at Ballymena, but unfortunately it wasn't to be,” said Coyle.
“It's been our Achilles heel all season.
“After a good result, we follow it up with another poor result.
“Not a lot has changed over the years. People like you when you win and they don't when you lose. That's the nature of the beast.”
Coyle insists that his interim spell in charge will not lead to a permanent appointment and, having spent the past week outlining his belief that the powers-that-be must bring a fresh face to the dugout in a bid to rescue the malaise that has engulfed the club in recent times, used his post-match deliberations to add: “I am not commenting on it because I am sick of talking about it.”
It was Glentoran who opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Sean Ward drilled the ball across the front of goal from the right hand flank and the cross evaded everyone to eventually make its way into the bottom corner of goalkeeper Declan Brown's net.
Carrick equalised in the 52nd minute when right-back Ian West got to the byline and cut the perfect ball back for Paul McDowell, who steered a shot beyond Elliot Morris.
Carrick took the lead in the 65th minute when Nixon's tackle on Stephen O'Neill saw possession land right at the feet of the unmarked Marcus Kane and the youngster on loan from Linfield made no mistake in finding the net.
For 20 minutes, a Glentoran equaliser looked unlikely but it was a familiar hero who got his side out of jail when, four minutes from the end, Nixon rose highest at the back post to head home a David Howland cross.
Carrick's caretaker boss Michael Hughes was disappointed not to win the game, but he is pleased with how is side have been progressing.
Hughes said: “We've worked hard in training on our shape at the back and at keeping the ball on the deck. It almost paid off today, but Glentoran popped up with a late goal, but that's football for you.”
The result leaves Rangers two points ahead of basement club Glenavon and one behind Lisburn Distillery and Dungannon Swifts.