PLAYR-FIT Teamwear Championship.
Dundela vs Ards.
Saturday 30th December at 3.00 p.m.
Ards make the short trip to Wilgar Park for the second time this season hoping to clinch their third win over Dundela. This is an unlikely scenario given that Dundela are top of the league, four points clear of second placed Portadown and have a game in hand over their rivals, while Ards are sitting in tenth spot looking nervously over their shoulder at Dergview who are in the relegation play-off spot, eight points behind Ards but with three games in hand.
The first trip to Wilgar Park back in September saw Ards come away with the points courtesy of a well deserved 1-0 win, they followed that up with a 4-0 demolition of Dundela in Bangor at the end of November. However since then the Red and Blues have struggled and have only picked up two points from the last eighteen available, they did get a morale lifting draw against Bangor on Boxing Day when a late comeback saw them score twice in the last 20 minutes to earn a point. A quick look at the for and against columns will concern Ards fans, the Duns have scored at an average of just over two per game, 41 in 20, while Ards have conceded nearly two per game, namely 45 in 23, making it all the more surprising that Ards kept clean sheets in the two previous games between the sides.
Since that 4-0 defeat in November the Duns had won four in a row until losing 2-1 to Harland and Wolff Welders in their derby game on December 27th. It was a surprisingly lack-lustre performance by Dundela and they will no doubt be looking to get back to form and at the same time get revenge for those two defeats at the hands of Ards earlier in the season. According to my reading of the NIFL website the Duns will be without the suspended pair of midfielder Lee Rea who was sent off in the recent 6-2 win over Annagh and ex Ards defender Jaimie McGovern who got his fifth yellow card against the Welders. The Duns will still be able to field several ex Ards players, with Jay Magee, Michael Kerr and Sam Dinu starting against the Welders and Willie Faulkner and Jake Corbett among the substitutes.
Ards fans will be hoping that Connor Maxwell is able to start the game after going off injured against Institute, which will enable Eamon Scannell to return to his more familiar role. Those that were surprised to see Eamon against Bangor will no doubt have worked out by now that the club have appealed his red card against Institute and he is therefore free to play until that appeal is heard. The in form pairing of Callum Dougan and Ross Hunter will look to continue their goal scoring run with Callum hitting the net seven times in the last eight games while Ross has five in the same period.
As expected December has proved a difficult month for Ards and given the recent form of the two clubs Ards fans, who usually make the trip to Wilgar in good numbers, will no doubt be happy with a repeat of the result of the corresponding game last year when the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Clandeboye on 31st December 2022.
Match Officials :-
Referee :- Stewart Long.
1st Assistant :- Jason Millar.
2nd Assistant :- Octavian George Neacsu.