GLENN Ferguson last night backed his Ballymena United players to step up to the plate ahead of a potentially season-defining week for the club.
By Saturday teatime, United’s campaign on both Danske Bank Premiership and Irish Cup fronts could either be alive and well or else dead in the water.
First up tonight (Tuesday, 7.45pm) is an absolute must-win league game at home to relegation-threatened Donegal Celtic if United are to maintain any faint hopes of making the top six ahead of next month’s ‘split’.
But in reality, it pales into insignificance when compared with Saturday’s home Irish Cup showdown with ‘derby’ rivals Coleraine, with the magnitude of the occasion forcing even Ferguson to move away from his usual ‘just another game’ mantra.
“It’s not really just another game this time because it’s the Irish Cup and we want to progress in it,” said Ferguson.
“I do firmly believe that if we get through this round, there’s every chance of getting a favourable draw in the quarter-finals.
“You could end up in the semi-final and once that happens, absolutely anything can happen in cup football – after last season, no-one knows that better than us!” said Ferguson, in a nod to Ballymena’s dismissal from the competition over the infamous Alan Davidson registration saga.
“If the boys play the way they did in the second half against Linfield I would be positive of getting a good result.
“Our recent record against Coleraine hasn’t been good but we don’t want to dwell on the negatives – we will try and relieve the pressure on the players as much as possible during the week.
“We want them to go out and perform the way they have done in the past couple of games and if we do create those chances, we will score goals.
“The big thing for us will be not conceding goals, which hasn’t proved easy for us in previous games against Coleraine,” added Ferguson, who will have to wait to see whether he will have teenage striker Neil Lowry – who made en eye-catching substitute appearance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Linfield - at his disposal.
The homegrown youngsters headed off at the weekend for a second trial at Middlesbrough after his first stint at the Championship side was cut short by bad weather in the north east of England.
“The pitches were snowed in when he was there, he was meant to go back last week but the pitches were then flooded after the snow melted.
“I think any young lad getting a trial at an English Championship club, certainly if it was me, my confidence would be lifted.
“Maybe the week’s full time training has given him a wee extra edge and hunger for it,” added Glenn.
The manager also hopes to have striker Shane Dolan available for tonight’s league game after he missed the Windsor Park draw with a knee injury.
“It was a contact injury from where he collided with Dungannon’s keeper during the week.
“It flared up again and it was just a bit tight when he was flexing his leg at the weekend but he should be fit for Tuesday night,” added Ferguson.
Match ball sponsor for Saturday’s Irish Cup game is Stirling Trophies and the ball sponsor is Mid-Antrim Marquees.
Members are reminded that Season Tickets and passes are not valid for Saturday’s cup match.
The Development Committee have new Body Warmers and Beanies on sale priced at £40,00 and £10.00 respectively.