Bragging rights will be on the line this weekend when Ballyclare Comrades entertain Islandmagee in the Intermediate Cup.
This third-round tie is likely to attract a fair crowd to Dixon Park where the hosts will probably be favourites.
However, they will face a stiff challenge from their Amateur League Premier Division opponents. Although the Wilbourne Park lads are in the bottom half of the table, they have three matches in hand, and if maximum points were garnered from these they would trail leaders Comber Rec by a single point.
Assessing the situation, Comrades boss Eddie Hill said: “This local derby is not to be taken lightly. Islandmagee will likely be seen as the underdogs, so they have nothing to lose, and will be going all out for a win.
“This will be their final and they would relish claiming a big scalp, so a tense battle is ahead. I really don’t know much about their personnel, but we will be charged up for the battle.”
The Reds go into Saturday’s game on the back of a comfortable 4-1 league win over Chimney Corner. Hill was absent from the dug-out for the game but assistant Gary Bell took charge and he was pleased that skipper Ricky Higgins found the net. “We were a little edgy at the back during the first 15 minutes, but then we settled and were very composed for the remainder of the game.
“It is good to see Ricky Higgins back among the goals after a barren spell. Strikers thrive on the confidence gained from scoring, and I hope he has a few more in the locker. We took him off as a precaution near the end with important Cup ties looming.
“It was also encouraging to see young Daniel Ellis impressing during his appearance; he did enough to suggest that he would be capable of stepping up to the higher level.”
Hill added: “Thankfully, we didn’t pick up any injuries against Chimney Corner and with Andrew Doyle, Paul Harbinson, Darren Doherty and Evan Forsythe all now in full training, I will have a full panel to select from, including new left-back Kyle Buckley from Ballymoney United.
“We are fortunate to be able to produce a strong bench each week, so I go in to 2013 confident there is more to come from this developing batch of players.
“Most importantly, I appeal to the fans to turn up in numbers to give us much appreciated vocal support, not only against Islandmagee, but against Bangor the following week in the Irish Cup and in all the league fixtures that will follow.”
Report by George Brown