Lough 41 Championship.
Ards vs Ballyclare Comrades.
Saturday 5th March at 3.00 p.m.
Ards have the edge over their visitors this season with six points gained from the two games so far but both teams have failed to sustain their early season form that had them marked as promotion candidates. Ards are fighting to stay in the top six and are currently just one point ahead of seventh placed Dergview, while the Comrades are sitting in ninth position and looking nervously over their shoulder at the relegation play-off place, currently occupied by Institute, just six points behind.
When these teams first met this season, Ards had a comfortable 3-0 win in Bangor and following that result both teams had three straight wins, leaving the Red and Blues briefly top of the table. However since that run of victories both teams have suffered a loss of form and confidence that has seen them slip down the league table.
Ards have gained just 13 points from the 51 available since beating Queen's on October 16th while Ballyclare have just one win, surprisingly away to Newry, and a total of eight points from the last 48 available, a run that saw manager Paul Harbinson part company with the club earlier this week. Ballyclare fans might point to the loss of Joe Tully and Gary Donnelly, who both joined Ards in the January transfer window, as contributory factors in their poor run, but in truth the warning signs were already there.
Ards might seem to have steadied the ship since the arrival of Matthew Tipton in the hot seat, with five points from the four league games since his arrival, but they know they must kick on and earn the right to stay in the top six, otherwise the season will peter out into a series of meaningless fixtures in the bottom six following the split which happens in four games, including Saturday's clash.
Last week Ards got a valuable point in a 1-1 draw at Dergview while the Comrades drew 1-1 at home to bottom of the table Queen's in Paul Harbinson's last game in charge, for different reasons both teams will be striving for all three points on Saturday in what should be a competitive encounter.
Match Sponsors -
Regent Flooring, Regent Street Newtownards.
Quik Cabs - Bangor.
Ball Sponsors -
Prime Shine Car Wash, Portaferry Road Newtownards.
Aziz Turkish Barber Shop, Frances Street Newtownards.
Match Officials -
Referee - Glenn Buchanan.
1st Assistant - Shane Geary.
2nd Assistant - Rachel Greer.