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  • Writer's pictureStuart Dellow

Ards v Institute Preview

PLAYR-FIT Championship.

Ards vs Institute.

Clandeboye Park.

Saturday 27th January at 3.00 p.m.

Institute travel to play Ards unrecognisable from the team that finished 11th last season and only avoided the relegation play-off because Warrenpoint were demoted. They currently sit proudly at the top of the Championship table, although Dundela and Bangor do have games in hand which could see them overtake the leaders. A lot of the credit for this improvement must go down to manager Kevin Deery, now in his second spell at the club having taken over from Brian Donaghey in June 2023.

Institute have only conceded 27 league goals this season, a total only matched by Ballinamallard and while their leading goalscorer is defender Kirk McLaughlin with eight, several players have contributed well to the overall total of 40 goals. Recent signing Mikhail Kennedy from Crusaders could be the out and out marksman they need with three in his first three games including both goals in last week's 2-0 home win over Ballyclare Comrades. Another recent signing is 34 year old ex International full back Daniel Lafferty who will go straight into the panel for this game.

John Bailie, also in his second spell at the helm, had a tough baptism last weekend when he had no less than seven players missing through suspension, sickness or injury in the 2-0 defeat at Annagh. It meant that Dee Dee McAllister and George Tipton lined up at full back and all six outfield substitutes were teenagers. In spite of this the team battled hard and with a bit of composure in front of goal, particularly in the second half, could easily have won the game.

This week Michael Ruddy and Eamon Scannell return from suspension and most of those on the injured list last week, with the exception of Connor Maxwell, should be available. One new addition to the injured list is Connor Scannell who had to be replaced early in last week's game and will sit this one out. Bright spots from last week were the impressive debut of central defender Ryan Arthur recently signed from Bangor and the confident display from young Finlay Bayliss who replaced Connor Scannell. John Bailie has been working hard to add to the squad and has also signed young midfielder Josh Andrews on loan from Carrick Rangers.

On current form Institute obviously have the edge, they have won three and drawn two of their last five while Ards have only one point from their last five games and have to go back to November 25th for their last win in the League when they beat Dundela 4-0. This season's encounters between the teams have also gone the way of Institute but have been close affairs. At Clandeboye Park in October Ards thought they had earned a draw when Aidan Steele netted in the eighth minute of injury time only for Institute to notch the winner five minutes later. In the return match at Brandywell in the weekend before Christmas, ten man Ards again thought they had earned a point until Kirk McLaughlin stepped up to score his second of the game in the 96th minute, ensuring that both games finished 3-2 in favour of Institute.

While league points are vital for both teams, for very different reasons, fans will no doubt have an eye on next weekend's fixture when Ards travel to Brandywell to play Institute again, this time in the sixth round of the Irish Cup where the winners will earn a place in the quarter finals.

Match Sponsor :- FB Motors, West Street, Newtownards.

Ball Sponsor :- J.McDonald Florist, High Street, Newtownards.

Match Officials :-

Referee :- Ross Dunlop.

1st Assistant :- Ethan Craig.

2nd Assistant :- Richard Hegarty.

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