Clearer Water Irish Cup.
Crusaders vs Ards.
Saturday 6th January at 3.00 p.m.
There is probably no harder way to start an Irish Cup campaign than with a trip to the current holders. Ards take a trip to Seaview Stadium on the Shore Road to take on Crusaders who won last year's trophy with a convincing 4-0 win over Ballymena, indeed in that particular tournament they played five games, scoring 14 goals and conceding just one.
While their league form is not as good as fans, or indeed manager Stephen Baxter would like, currently sitting in fourth place, eighteen points behind leaders Linfield and ten behind third placed Cliftonville, the Crues are still a formidable outfit capable of scoring freely with the likes of in demand striker Ben Kennedy leading the way with eight goals so far ably supported by the evergreen Paul Heatley who has seven. Add to that Adam Lecky and Phillip Lowry who have five each and the back-up of Jordan Owens who has made most of his appearances from the bench this season and it is clear that Ards will have to be at their best to get something from this tie. On current form Crusaders may look to be in a bad run with three defeats in the last five, but those defeats have come at the hands of Linfield, Larne and Cliftonville, the current top three in the league!
Having parted ways with manager Matthew Tipton last weekend, Ards will have the respected duo of Daryl Phillips and goalkeeping coach Paul Kee in charge of the team as the search for Tipton's replacement gets underway. An away game against a top four Premiership side is not an easy introduction for anyone but Daryl and Paul will have the backing of travelling fans and who knows what surprises can happen in the cup?
Last season Ards were drawn away to another Premiership outfit in Dungannon Swifts and although eventually going down 3-1 they put in a good performance. After a series of inconsistent results this season and without a win in the last six games most Ards fans would settle for a good team performance this time round.
It is no secret that the Red and Blues concede too many goals and that problem will not be easy to solve, particularly with the news that regular left back Connor Maxwell has had it confirmed that the ankle injured in the recent game at Institute is in fact broken, meaning he will be missing for some time. Hopefully Adam McCallum will be fit to start after missing a few games, which will give the interim managerial duo an option, possibly moving Michael Ruddy to left back to free up Eamon Scannell.
Whatever the starting eleven is they will face a tough task, but as already said cup football is renowned for shock results, maybe this will be one of them?
Tickets for this fixture are available from the Crusaders F.C website and are priced at £10 and concessions at £7. Ards fans will be accommodated in the South Stand.
Match Officials :-
Details unavailable at time of writing.