BALLYCLARE Comrades’ manager Eddie Hill got what he wanted for Christmas: a home draw in the Irish Cup, writes George Brown.
Bangor will be in town in the New Year to lock horns in Northern Ireland’s top knockout trophy, and the game could pave the way for the opportunity to land a lucrative draw in the next round.
“Bangor will not be pushover,” said Hill. “They are a Championship 1 side and will provide quite a challenge, but this tie is definitely winnable.
“We have only one fixture between now and then (against Chimney Corner at home on December 29) and barring injuries we should be at full strength, so we will be quite confident about getting a result.
“On Saturday against Wakehurst in the league I had the luxury of having Gary Brown and skipper Ricky Higgins on the bench, and when they came on they were involved in the two goals that clinched the points, after Wakehurst had drawn level against the run of play.
“Following the success of the 4-5-1 formation against Portstewart, I decided to continue with it, and Johnny McClurg operated in behind me in attack.
“After registering back-to-back doubles in this position, Johnny kept pushing on with another strike, so he seems well suited to this role.
“Defensively, we were poor against Portstewart, but there was an improvement with Aaron Montgomery and Glenn Pierce proving to be an excellent combination at the heart of the defence.
“Our keeper, Paddy Flood, had a comparatively easy afternoon, but I was disappointed when they got their equaliser from a corner.
“Even when they scored I never doubted we would score again, and I was encouraged when I saw the experience we had on the bench.
“For this fixture I had to make only one enforced change, when owing to the unavailability of Darren Doherty, Chris Monteith came back in as a straight replacement at left-back.
“We are now unbeaten in four, and much of this is due to the commitment of my assistants Stuart McClean and Gary Bell. They both put in a mountain of work for Ballyclare Comrades and I am indebted to them for all their efforts. Stuarty is keeping himself fit and has been on the bench in recent weeks, and I don’t rule out the possibility of Gary getting back in to the action. He had a horrible leg injury, but if anyone can overcome this it will be Gary Bell; he is already taking part in some of the training sessions, so don’t be surprised if he makes a comeback.
“What we need now is a period of consistency, and following this weekend’s break we will be going all out to make it five in a row undefeated when we entertain Chimney Corner.”