Ballyclare win to keep pressure on top

Ballyclare Comrades defeated Newry City on Saturday (September 18) to close the gap at the top of the Lough 41 NIFL Championship table to just two points and a quick turnaround sees them return to action in the first round of the ToalsBet.com Co Antrim Shield against Queen’s tonight (Tuesday).

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 1:12 pm

The south Antrim side won 1-0 at the weekend thanks to a goal early in the second half from Gary Donnelly.

Donnelly finished on the half volley from six yards out after being teed up by Tom Mathieson.

Newry, who started the season with six wins on the bounce, have faltered over recent weeks, losing to Ballinamallard United and then at Dixon Park to Ballyclare.

Dixon Park. (Pic Google).

Darren Mullen’s men still occupy top spot in the table on 18 points, but goal difference is all that separates Annagh United in second, Ards in third and Ballyclare in fourth, who all have 16 points.

The Comrades take on Ards in the league on Friday night, knowing a win would see them reach the summit as the other sides do not play until Saturday, but manager Paul Harbinson is staying grounded and knows there is still a long way to go in the season.

Speaking to the Times today (Tuesday), Paul said: “This is a very tough week and one requiring the players to maintain the highest of standards and complete focus.

“They’ve come off the back of a very hard fought win against Newry and go straight into a Co Antrim shield game tonight with Queen’s.

“Another quick turn around sees us heading to Clandeboye to face Ards in league action again on Friday night. Much like Saturday, we know the quality we’ll be facing and we go in under no illusion that this is going to be another uphill battle for 90 minutes.

“There will always be much speculation around who will be there at the top in May, but that is so far away that we’re just focusing on this next game.

“It’s always nice to note improvement and progression, so to be in the position we are at this point is positive for the players and testament to their attitude, but there’s still so far to go. We’ll see this as the next challenge and the next opportunity to test ourselves against a top team.”

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