Manager’s programme notes

Posted : 7th April 2023

Tonight we will play Crusaders in the first of our five post-split Premiership games and our aim will be to win and hope to make up ground on the leaders Larne who presently hold a significant five point advantage at the top of the table.

At this stage of the season, all things are possible and we have to keep believing that we can end the season successfully. All we can do is focus on ourselves and take each game as it comes over the remaining weeks of a long and challenging season.

All the teams in the top six are challenging for European qualification, so every post-split game will be fiercely competitive, with a lot at stake. There are sure to be plenty of twists and turns over the coming weeks and our supporters can play a vital role in driving the players on through the course of what are sure to be five tough games that are ahead of us before the end of this season.

Crusaders will arrive here full of belief and confidence, having qualified for an Irish Cup final repeat encounter with Ballymena at the start of next month. They've won both of our league games at Seaview and their players will be playing for cup final places, so this is sure to be the usual, formidable, battling encounter against Stephen Baxter's team.

However, we come into tonight's game with momentum and in good form, having followed up our League Cup final win with comfortable and pleasing wins against Newry (7-0) and Dungannon (5-0).

Joel Cooper marked his 150th appearance in the Newry game with a four goal return and he's one of a number of players who will have a vital role to play over the crucial, closing weeks of the season.

The Dungannon game was notable for the first team debuts of Rhys Annett and young Braiden Graham who, aged just 15 years and 137 days, is the youngest player ever to feature in our first team. He has a bright future ahead of him in the game, if he continues to work hard and take the right advice from the coaches and staff at this club.

Ross Larkin has opened up about his fight back from a serious life-threatening condition and I want to pay tribute to his courage, dignity and resilience in the face of what have been the most challenging of circumstances for him and his devoted family.

He's been a real inspiration to everyone in our changing room and we are all rallying behind him, as he aims to complete the Belfast marathon at the end of the month. It's incredible that he's so far raised over £6000 to help Brainwaves help others who have suffered from a similar condition to him and I want to encourage everyone (who can) to donate to his JustGiving fundraising appeal in support of a most worthwhile cause.

Eetu Vertainen has missed a couple of games due to injury and illness prevented Kyle Lafferty from featuring in our previous game but I am hopeful that we will have them available to the squad tonight.

Ben Hall and Niall Quinn should be available for selection and we are hopeful that we will have Stephen Fallon nearing availability for the squad and that will be a big boost to everyone, as he's missed a lot of games since his injury in the last home game against today's opponents in November.

Robbie McDaid and Ryan McKay will not play again this season but competition levels within the squad are good, as we enter the demanding post-split schedule.

We will need the patience and positive vocal encouragement of everyone in the stadium tonight, so please get behind each and every one of the players on duty in this vital game.
Next Match
Queen's University
League Cup
Kick-off : 3rd October @ 7:45pm
Venue : Windsor Park
Last Match
Newry City
Irish Premier League Match Report