Ards vs Institute
Bangor Fuels Arena
Friday 15th February at 7.45 p.m.
Match Sponsors: Posh Sheds NI
Ball Sponsors: Treehouse Interiors
A crucial game for Ards sees an Institute side coming to town without any relegation worries, but also without two of the key men who helped secure their Premiership status. Manager Paddy McLaughlin and star striker Michael McCrudden have both left the club the former to take over the reins at Cliftonville and the latter apparently on strike over the circumstances around a move to Derry City which was meant to happen at the end of this season. Institute have signed a couple of players during the transfer window, which might have gone unnoticed amid all the hype surrounding the two departures already mentioned and the transfer of Aaron Harkin, who follows his old boss to Cliftonville. The players signed are Thomas McBride, an attacking midfielder from Finn Harps, who is currently in his third spell with Institute, and Paul Smith who is a striker most recently at Dergview.
The two previous games between the clubs this season both ended 1-0 in favour of the men from the North West, but Ards fans are entitled to wonder how they failed to earn at least a point in both of those games, one featuring a last gasp winner in Bangor and the other a debatable penalty at the Brandywell on Boxing Day.
Manager Colin Nixon is again faced with selection problems. Defender Callum Byers begins a two game suspension after accumulating ten yellow cards and in the forward line new signings Jonathan Smith and Darren Henderson are both doubtful as is fan's favourite David McAllister who was injured in the warm-up at Lurgan last weekend.
Whatever the final starting eleven, the need to start picking up points is clear and with all respect to Institute, who have played some great football this season and earned their place in the Premiership for next season, this is the sort of game Ards must win if they are to have any chance of moving up even one place in the table and giving themselves a play-off opportunity.