Manager’s programme notes

Posted : 17th April 2021

This evening we are sure to face another huge test against a Ballymena United team that will come here determined to further their ambitions to qualify for the Europa League and aiming to secure a place in the Top Six ahead of the upcoming league split.

Ballymena recently defeated us 2-1 at the Showgrounds and followed that up with a 2-2 draw against Glentoran, so they are sure to pose a real threat to us this evening. David Jeffrey will have been boosted by his recent Manager of the Month award and while he's always a welcome visitor back at his old 'stomping ground', our aim is to ensure that he doesn't leave Windsor Park with a positive result at our expense.

I was delighted with our 2-1 win against Coleraine in our most recent home game. Jordan Stewart scored two superb goals and we had chances to add further goals in an excellent first half. After the break, the game changed due to Niall Quinn's red card but I was delighted with the resolve, fitness and character of the players to dig in and withstand expected Coleraine pressure, to see out a vital and hard-fought win.

Last week we picked up an important point away to Larne, thanks to Andy Waterworth's late goal. Inver is a difficult venue but I felt we more than deserved the point, mainly due to an impressive second half display in which we kept plugging away, searching for the equaliser. We were able to hold on to the point, thanks to a wonderful save in the last minute when Chris Johns pushed a goal bound shot by Fuad Sule over the bar.

The players did well to come away with four points from tough games against Coleraine on Wednesday and Larne soon after, on Saturday and thankfully, we've had a full week to rest, recover and prepare ahead of tonight's hugely important game.

Niall Quinn re-joins the squad for this evening's game, after suspension and it was pleasing to welcome Joel Cooper back to action for last week's game in Larne, following the completion of his three game suspension.

We are hopeful of having Jamie Mulgrew available to re-join the squad for tonight's game after injury and that will be a real boost to everyone around the club and our supporters as well, to have our inspirational skipper back for the run-in to the season end.

It's been pleasing to have Stephen Fallon back in action after injury and at present, our only long-term absentee remains Kyle McClean.

Congratulations to Shayne Lavery who deservedly picked up the March Player of the Month award from the Football Writers. He's been in excellent goalscoring form for us lately and hopefully, he can maintain that momentum until the season end.

Congratulations also to Ashley Hutton and Rebecca McKenna for their hugely important contributions to the recent play-off wins against the Ukraine which ensured that Northern Ireland qualified for the Euros in England next year. A tremendous achievement by all concerned.

In closing, can I add my sincere condolences on the recent sad passing of HRH Prince Philip and we will again pay our respects, by holding a minute's silence before tonight's game and wearing black armbands in the game.
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