PLAYR-FIT Teamwear Championship.
Bangor vs Ards.
Friday 9th February at 7.45 p.m.
Ards players and fans could be forgiven for having some of their attention on the Irish Cup appeal process which if successful would mean a home draw against Linfield in the next round, however the current position in the league demands a concentrated effort to pick up the points that will keep the team away from the relegation play off place, so the third North Down derby of the season must be the only focus on Friday night.
Bangor are sitting in fourth place with a realistic chance of contesting for a promotion spot, an enviable situation and a credit to the club in their first season back in the Championship. They have a big squad and are effective at both ends of the field, having conceded just 31 goals, a total only bettered by league leaders Institute and scoring 49 goals, with only Portadown having scored more in their first 25 games. Much of the goal threat comes from two players that will be familiar to Ards fans, Ben Arthurs has 11, while Scott McArthur has 8. Adam Neale also has 8 and 19 year old Lewis Francis has scored 7 from midfield. Their already tight defence, with the 39 year old James Taylor in goal, has been added to recently with the acquisition of the experienced Howard Beverland who can list Crusaders and Coleraine among his previous clubs. In Bangor's last game Beverland scored an injury time equaliser at Darragh Park to deny Dergview a vital win.
The previous two games this season resulted in a 1-0 win for Bangor in August, while the two teams fought out a 2-2 draw on Boxing Day, a game where Arthurs and McArthur gave Bangor an early lead but a second half fightback saw the Red and Blues earn a point with goals from Dougan and Hunter.
Ards are still in 10th place, with a seven point advantage over Dergview who occupy 11th and therefore are in the relegation play-off position. Dergview do have a game in hand but a much inferior goal difference, not that Ards fans will be wanting to rely on goal difference to ensure their safety at the end of the season. Coincidentally the final game prior to the split is at home to Dergview on March 23rd.
Bangor are currently on a run of ten games unbeaten in the League, while Ards haven't picked up a win in their last nine League games so recent form would point towards a win for Bangor, but as Ards showed on Boxing Day, as well as in earlier wins over Dundela at home and away and the cup win over Crusaders, they have the ability and the commitment to earn a result against any team, Ards fans will be looking for 100% commitment in this one.
John Bailie will have some decisions to make regarding his team selection for this crucial derby. Does he stick with the nucleus of the team that started last week and gave Institute a good game, particularly in the second half, or does he start the likes of Keke, a second half substitute last week, or Lee Newell who had to sit out against Institute? Other new signings such as McCart, Quinn and Andrews, the latter being an unused substitute last week, could also come into contention. Whatever his selection the manager will no doubt impress upon his team the need for points and as a veteran of many North Down derbies himself, the importance of this particular fixture to the fans.
As this is Bangor's home fixture Ards fans are reminded that season tickets are not valid and wherever possible they should occupy the away end of the ground.
Match Officials :-
Referee :- Michael McKenna.
1st Assistant :- Niall McGuinness.
2nd Assistant :- Gareth O Donnell.