It was all change once more for The Ants as season 2018/19 got underway. John Kelly was announced as the new
Ants manager and he set up his backroom staff of Alan Turner and Tony ‘Tiger’ Curran as assistant manager and coach respectively. On a player front the club had only 4 players re-sign from the previous season, Chris McLaughlin, Grant Kelly, Ralph Gamba and Anton Conway who had been the captain the previous season. Anton was promoted to Club captain, whereas on match days Chris McLaughlin would captain the team on the park.
John used his contacts in the amateur game to bring on board a whole squad basically, signing 20 players, most of whom would be making their debut at the Junior grade with only a couple having played at this level before. Their first pre-season test was in the Oban Saints Annual tournament, which this season consisted of Oban Saints, Dundee United, St. Johnstone and Hamilton Academical. The new Ants gave a good account of themselves, starting off with a 0-0 draw with hosts Oban Saints, The second game saw the Ants face St. Johnstone and a John Ball strike in the first half gave the Ants a 1-0 win before two defeats to Hamilton Academical and Dundee United.
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The Ants team for the Oban Tournament.
July the 9th saw the Ants travel to James McGrory Park to play St Roch’s in the annual Mark Ritchie memorial trophy match with a Derek McGrory strike being enough to get the Ants the win and the trophy on what was a cracking night for a legend who is sadly missed. A last pre-season match against Fauldhouse saw old Ants keeper Jon Connolly bring his East Region side to McKenna Park and they ran out 3-2 winners in a good final warmup for the Ants.
The league cup section had been revamped for the first time in over 10 years with the Ants now facing Greenock, Port Glasgow and Renfrew in the section and new signing Peter McKnight got the campaign off to a flier with a goal four minutes from time to give the Ants a 1-0 victory at Ravenscraig Stadium setting up a top of the section clash with nearby Renfrew who were still in buoyant mood following their promotion to the top division the season before. Old faces came back to haunt the Ants with former players of the year Thomas Miller and Kieron Maxwell playing their part by both grabbing goals, Renfrew opened the scoring midway through the first half, Maxwell doubled the lead with 15 minutes to go, a third goal followed two minutes later and Miller grabbed the last of the game in the 86th minute as Renfrew ran out 4-0 winners. The chance to win the group had suffered a major blow and it was put to bed in the 3rd and final game of the section when they lost 1-0 to Port Glasgow at Parklea.
Despite finishing bottom of the section, there was plenty to look forward to for the Ants as they had played some really good football in the sectional and hadn’t really been outplayed in any of the matches despite being the lowest ranked team in the group, with the teams above all coming from higher divisions.
The league campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts, The Ants losing their opening four games with a single goal as Lesmahagow (H 0-1), Ashfield (A 1-2), Saltcoats (H 2-3) and Muirkirk (A 1-2), all came out on top, and team captain Chris McLaughlin leaving to join Neilston however August did finish with a ray of light at the end of the tunnel with a the trip away to Carluke, Ralph Gamba and Tony Duffy netting as the Ants came back from a goal down to win 2-1