New Ballyclare Comrades manager Stephen Hughes lost little time in strengthening his squad, by bringing in four more players during the January window, writes George Brown.
Last week he told the Times he was striving to get a few contacts ‘over the line’ and he delivered in style, with Paul Hughes, Craig Richardson, Jason Johnstone and Stuart McCullough joining Mark Shannon who had signed during the festive holiday period.
Goalkeeper Hughes had been at Dixon Park a few years ago and he rejoins the club from Ballynure Old Boys as goalkeeper coach, while competing for the number one jersey with Jonah Nicholl.
Stuart McCullough will also be well known to the Reds faithful, having been a tower of strength at centre half a few years ago, so he makes a welcome return after a spell with Jamesy Kirk’s PSNI in Championship 2.
Jason Johnstone has been described as a box-to-box midfielder, who has been with Ballymena United Reserves, with whom he scored twice last week against Crusaders Reserves, so he will be vying for a spot in the engine-room.
Craig Richardson is a left-back who has impressed Reserves manager Ronnie Burns in recent weeks when playing for FC Whiteabbey in a Ballymena Junior League Division 1 clash. He is likely to start with Burns as his mentor, while former Donegal Celtic defender, Mark Shannon, will make competition for places in defence even keener.
Some of these players are likely to get a run-out against Moneyslane on Saturday in the Intermediate Cup, provided they are not already cup-tied.
“I am delighted to have been able to bring in some new faces and I look forward to the second half of the season with confidence,” Hughes saiod.
Major changes affecting Championship teams are in the offing, with both divisions being reduced to 12 teams next season.
As far as Comrades are concerned the number one priority will be to avoid finishing in the bottom four. The bottom three will automatically drop to C2, with the next subjected to a play-off.
Comrades currently sit just one point above the bottom four, so this will be a matter of concern for all at Dixon Park.
But looking at Comrades’ current position Hughes looks forward optimistically, with seven of the remaining 12 fixtures to be settled at Dixon Park.