Manager’s programme notes
Posted : 23rd February 2019
I’ve been delighted with the resilience and character on display within the squad in our two previous games, as we picked up a vital three points against Coleraine and followed this up with a hugely enjoyable victory in last week’s League Cup final.
However, we know we will face another huge challenge from a strong Ballymena team who pushed us all the way in last week’s game and who will feel that they deserved to take the game at least to extra time. Their second half display will give them the confidence to come here today full of belief that they can achieve a positive result. All our games against Ballymena this season have been hard-fought close affairs and I fully expect more of the same today.
Winning the League Cup final has given everyone at the club a real lift but we had to dig really deep to achieve the result on the day. Big games require big players and it was Andrew Waterworth who again rose to the occasion scoring the all important decisive goal.
The result was reliant on our defence who were all immense on the day, repelling wave after wave of second half pressure from Ballymena. Our players had to put their bodies on the line but we held firm and I was absolutely delighted with our will to win and our determination not to concede.
A week earlier, we had to show similar mental strength to claw our way back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Coleraine with a last minute Kyle McClean goal sealing a dramatic but vital 3-2 win. The win kept us in a pleasing position in the league table but we will face a sustained challenge from Ballymena, Crusaders and indeed all our opponents in the remaining weeks of the season.
Before today’s game, we will have had to assess a few injuries that several players picked up in last week’s game. We will be missing Joel Cooper again today, as a result of the illness that ruled him out of last week’s cup final.
Andrew Mitchell and Stephen Fallon will hopefully be approaching a return to the squad after injury and we had Lorcan Forde and Ryan McGivern on the bench in last week’s cup final, after their recent injury lay offs. Mark Haughey and Roy Carroll remain unavailable due to injury.
Today is a huge game for us and it’s one where we will need our supporters to get right behind us, as happened in the past two games when our supporters helped drive us over the finishing line in what were two hard fought battles against two strong teams.