Ballyclare Comrades manager Eddie Hill was fuming when he was forced to travel to Breda Park minus nine regulars for Saturday’s Championship 1 clash with Knockbreda.
“Buckley, Simpson, McGowan, Forsythe, Doyle, McClurg, Brown and Trussell were all missing because of suspension, injury or unavailability, while Denver Gage has been snapped up by Ards,” he said.
“I was disappointed with Denver’s decision to leave us. I had reckoned on him staying for the full season. However, Ards are title contenders, so linking up with them provides him with the chance to play senior football again, so we wish him success at Clandeboye Park.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Irish Cup tie in Portadown against Annagh United, the Bob Radcliffe Cup finalists, whose attack is likely to be spear-headed by former Ballymena and Linfield striker, Shea Campbell, Hill offered: “No doubt about it, this will be a difficult hurdle even though they are in the tier below.
“They turned us over in a pre-season friendly and they are currently in second spot in the Championship 2 table, so we will have to be at our best - especially on their 3G pitch.
“Thankfully most of those who missed Saturday’s match will come into the reckoning, so we should be nearly at full strength, although top scorer Chris Trussell will still be side-lined,” he added.
And some of Ballyclare’s regular midfielders might find they have dropped down the pecking order following the emergence of Reserves skipper, CJ McIlwaine, as a candidate for a permanent place in the team.
“CJ was outstanding in central midfield alongside Samuel McIlveen against Knockbreda, and as a result I will be re-thinking my plans to strengthen that department during the transfer window,” revealed Hill.
“Although young, he is a big, strong lad, and he is in possession of the jersey, so it will be up to some of the regulars to try to take it from him.”
McIlwaine starred in his first start with the senior squad, and for the trip to Belfast he was joined by Reserves team-mates Rhys Clelland, Mark Conn, Anthony Hill and Craig Todd who is the son of Tom, who will be remembered for scoring the solitary goal against Distillery II at Solitude in the Steel and Sons Cup final replay, that brought the coveted trophy to Dixon Park in 1984.
During Saturday’s defeat to Knockbreda, Daniel Burns was taken to hospital with a broken leg after he and Adam McCart went for the ball.
“It was an innocuous challenge by two players intent on winning the ball,” added Hill.
“Adam and Burns, clashed, but there was no malicious intent by either player, and it was one of those things that can happen in football.”
Match report: Page 38