September has been a mixed month for us in terms of results but there have been definite signs of progression. We had a terrific result away to Dunmurry Rec in the Irish Cup in what was a battling performance by the whole team. The players were told that discipline would be vital if we were to be successful this season and it was tested to the full in this game. To their credit they held their control in a very physical game. Unfortunately we were unable to build on this result and put in a poor performance against Hanover at home in the Bob Radcliffe Cup. We gifted them a goal early in the game which gave them something to hold onto and we never really tested their keeper for the remainder of the game. It was a disappointing night in front of another large home crowd but we have to learn from any defeat and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes. Our next game was another defeat against Rathfriland in the Mid-Ulster Cup. We had several good chances in the first half to take the lead but paid the price for these missed chances and conceded from a great strike after a lack of concentration. Another defensive mistake made it 2-0 and we were always chasing the game after that. Although we pulled one back it wasn’t enough, although the return of Mark Patton from injury was a big bonus. We are never happy after any defeat but we always said we would use some of the cups to try different formations and players. The league will always be the priority and any cup run will be an added bonus.
Thankfully our next game was in the league and gave us a chance to get back to winning ways. Away to league leaders Dungannon Tigers was never going to be easy but from the first minute the team showed their intent and we could have been 3 up in the first 10 minutes. We played some terrific football with the return of captain Chris McMahon from suspension having a big impact. A goal just before half-time gave us the lead our play deserved and although we conceded early in the second half the lads didn’t panic. Dungannon put us under a bit of pressure at the start of the second half and Peter Murphy pulled off a terrific penalty save when we were leading 2-1. This save seemed to lift the lads and we ran out deserved winners 5-2 which included terrific strikes from John Smyth and Mark Lowry. There is a great team spirit amongst the squad and this was shown in the celebrations for the 5th goal which included subs and all. Whilst it was an important win we won’t get carried away and know there is a long way to go in this league.
The reserves have also started their campaign and although it has been a mixed start great credit must go to Gary Redpath, Kevin Darcy, Marty McParland and Stephen McArdle. Managing any reserve team is never easy but the coaching staff have worked very well together and are aware that reserve football is about preparing lads for the first team. We have one senior squad at the club and everyone gets a chance to impress either in training or in reserve matches. Hopefully we will see a natural progression from the u17s, through to the reserve team and into the first team squad.
I would also like to remind everybody that we are doing ‘Octobeard’ for the month of October. This will involve players and coaching staff going unshaven for the month in aid of Barry Trainor’s Friends Of Africa fund. Barry is a former youth coach at the club and deserves all the help we can give him. So can you please give generously to any of our scruffy club members that you see throughout the month. Hopefully you will continue to support us this season and we hope to see you at the top of the table clash this Friday night at home to Valley Rangers ko 7.45pm.
Finally, on behalf of all the management and players I would like to wish Christopher Hughes a speedy recovery from a broken leg sustained while playing for the reserves.
Yours in Sport,