Lough 41 Championship.
Ballinamallard vs Ards.
Saturday 12th February at 3.00 p.m.
Matthew Tipton's reign at Ards got off to a flying start with an impressive display and all three points away to second placed Loughgall on Tuesday. Another difficult away tie faces him on Saturday when he takes the Red and Blues to Fermanagh to face Ballinamallard, currently on 45 points, the same as both Loughgall and Annagh, but in third place on goal difference. The win at Loughgall puts Ards back in the top six, but five points behind that trio of teams on 45 points. The new manager has said he wants to keep getting the results that will ensure a top six finish and then hopefully be in a position to push for the play-off place, which given the inconsistent form shown by several teams, is not an unrealistic ambition.
Ards have done well against the Ducks this season, a 3-1 win in Bangor in early October was followed by a 1-1 draw at Ferney Park in December, a game which saw Ards finish with ten men as TJ Murray was dismissed shortly before BJ Banda's equaliser.
Banda, who is the leading goalscorer for Ballinamallard, won't feature on Saturday as he is suspended, but they will still be strong opponents with a squad that has a good blend of exciting young players and a sprinkling of experience, the latter typified by 34 year old Mark Stafford who returned to his boyhood club in January after a short spell with Glenavon. Mark is better known for his six year spell at Linfield where he won many trophies, including four League titles.
Ards squad tomorrow will be along the same lines as Tuesday, with TJ Murray still injured and Igiehon and Crane still suspended. Eamon Scannell will be a doubt after he had to be substituted in the first half against Loughgall following a nasty clash of heads. Whatever the starting eleven, Ards fans will be hoping for a display such as they witnessed on Tuesday, particularly in the second half, when the desire and work rate shown to successfully come back from the 2-1 half time deficit was welcomed by the fans that made the trip.
Unfortunately there will be no bus to this game, but it is hoped that a good crowd will be able to make their way down to cheer the team on.
Match Officials _
Referee - Neil Robinson.
1st Assistant - Kieran Eannetta.
2nd Assistant - Niall McGuinness.