PLAYR-FIT Teamwear Championship.
Annagh United vs Ards F.C
Saturday 19th August at 3.00 p.m.
Matthew Tipton should have a full squad to choose from as he takes his side down to Annagh looking for his side's first points of the season. Annagh will present a tough challenge as they are looking to go one better than last season when they lost to Dungannon in the two legged promotion/relegation play-off.
After a pre-season that was largely encouraging Ards have failed to hit the competitive ground running and consequently found themselves outfought and defeated by Newington and Bangor in their first two games. This leaves them at the bottom of the Championship table without a point, in sharp contrast to Annagh who are top having opened their season in style with two wins, firstly at home beating a fancied Dundela side 5-2 and then winning 1-0 at Knockbreda last weekend. There is obviously a long way to go, but another defeat on Saturday would leave the Red and Blues nine points behind and facing a battle to get back in contention.
Annagh defeated Ards at the BMG Arena last August in what was, like this, the third game of the season, but Ards gained revenge when they won all three of the other encounters between the sides. Having said that, past form won't count for a lot as both sides have made several changes to their squads and games between the two are usually close affairs, however the home team will be confident of continuing their good start to the 2023/24 campaign, especially with the likes of the experienced Stephen Murray and Ryan Swan, their new signing from Warrenpoint already on the goal trail.
They also have influential players like Niall Henderson available and travelling fans will recognise Jason Craughwell who will probably be in goal and defender Conal Young, both players having left Ards at the end of last season.
Ards had several team changes against Bangor compared to the side that faced Newington, but what concerned most Ards fans on the night was the lack of composure and constructive football from a side packed with players capable of both.
There is competition for places in most areas and the manager has admitted that it is difficult to pick a starting eleven given the positive showing of many players in pre-season, but a winning combination must be found soon to restore confidence and morale on and off the pitch.
Let's hope the team and the travelling support enjoy the journey home!