Ards have a chance to put some daylight between themselves and Newry City as the sides clash at Dixon Park on Saturday.
It's third against fourth in Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 with Ards for the moment, the team on top. The point gained away at Warrenpoint last weekend, while Newry were in action in the Intermediate Cup, took Niall Currie's team back into third spot, although some might say Newry remain the better placed side, having played four games fewer than Ards.
The south Down team have certainly had their fair share of coverage this past week as the club attempts to gain re-instatement into the Irish Cup. The issue of Alan Davidson's eligibility for Ballymena has yet to be resolved, with Newry submitting a second appeal in the past few days.
On the field, Pat McGibbon's men have shown little complacency of late, successfully reaching the semi-final of the Intermediate Cup last Saturday by virtue of a 3-1 win over Cliftonville Olympic. A week before the club claimed its first silverware in five years by beating Glenavon in the showpiece of the Mid-Ulster Cup, while domestically the team haven't lost in their last six league games.
Ards' form of late has been unpredictable. Few would argue that the side should have claimed a victory at Warrenpoint, with only poor finishing to blame for that, but in the previous match Ards were well off the pace when turned over by a decent Loughgall team.
The manager can call again on Sammy Devine this week, with the midfielder having served his one game ban. There have been doubts during the week about a number of players including skipper Darren Nixon and Gary Spence, as well as David Cully, with those trio missing either one or both training sessions. It's much a case of wait and see for the manager as to whether he must shuffle his defence again. Winger Craig McMillen didn't feature against Warrenpoint, having been unable to come to training of late and he is not expected to return to the panel for the Newry game either.
When the sides met earlier in the season, Niall Currie had been in charge for just one game and Ards battled well to earn a point from a scoreless draw at Newry Showgrounds.
Including Saturday, Ards have six games remaining this season, with just two of those at home. The club would appreciate a good support during those final matches. Kick-off this weekend is the usual 3pm, with the regular supporters' bus running from Gibson's Lane at 1.50pm.
16th March 2012