PLAYR-FIT Teamwear Championship.
Annagh United vs Ards.
Friday 19th January at 7.45 p.m.
Ards travel to Annagh for this Friday night fixture which marks the start of John Bailie's second spell in charge of the Red and Blues. John is well known to Ards fans, having been a favourite in his playing days, representing the club nearly 300 times, he was also club captain and was Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002. He was also coach under Niall Currie as Ards reached the League Cup Final in 2016 and was of course manager from December 2019 through to January 2022.
John first task is to get a team out that can start picking up the points that will pull the club away from the relegation area. This isn't easy with a small squad and bearing in mind the current injury and suspension list. Connor Maxwell is a long term injury absentee and James McLaughlin is a doubt as he missed out last week through injury, Eamon Scannell completes his three game suspension and Michael Ruddy misses this game as he picked up his fifth booking in the defeat against Ballinamallard last Saturday. John has moved quickly to sign some defensive cover in the form of 28 year old Ryan Arthur from Bangor. Ards fans may remember that Ryan was in the Ards panel for that League Cup Final vs Cliftonville in 2016.
Annagh started the season well, being unbeaten in their first six games which included a 0-0 draw against Ards at the BMG Arena in August and were considered realistic contenders for a top two spot. They picked up all three points from a 3-2 victory when they were the visitors to Clandeboye Park in October but inconsistency has seen them slip down the table after that promising start and they currently sit in eighth place with 33 points, eight ahead of tenth placed Ards on 25 points. They have picked up two wins and a draw in their last five games while Ards have only two draws to show for their efforts over the same period and are without a League win in their last seven games.
Annagh's main goal threat comes from Ruairi McDonald and the 35 year old Stephen Murray with eight and five respectively. Team selection could be a problem for manager Ciaran McGurgan as if my understanding of the NIFL website is correct, both Lee Upton and Paul Finnegan picked up their fifth caution in last weekend's creditable 0-0 draw with table toppers Institute, which should mean an automatic one game suspension for the defensive duo.
Undoubtedly a difficult start for the "new" man in charge of the Red and Blues, but the travelling fans will be hoping for a generous helping of new manager bounce and a positive result to kick start a climb away from the wrong end of the table.
Match Officials :-
Referee :- Barry Monaghan.
1st Assistant :- Shane Corrigan.
2nd Assistant :- Roy Beacom.