Wakehurst boss relishing chance to cause cup upset

Tiarnan Rafferty has scored three goals in his first two games for Wakehurst.
Tiarnan Rafferty has scored three goals in his first two games for Wakehurst.

Wakehurst manager Paul Muir is relishing the opportunity for his side to pit their wits against higher-ranked opposition this week.

The Ballymena men travel to Championship One neighbours Ballyclare Comrades in the opening round of the JBE League Cup tonight (Tuesday. 7.45pm).

“We’re looking forward to facing Ballyclare,” Muir told Times Sport.

“We won’t be expected to win but I want us to approach every game we play wanting to win.

“It’s a relatively local draw for us and it might also give me the opportunity to have a look at a few players who maybe haven’t featured so far but that’s not to say it is any lesser a panel because I believe we have good quality throughout the squad.

“There is always the incentive at this stage of the competition of getting through a round a maybe drawing one of the Premiership teams but for now, the focus is solely on Ballyclare,” added Muir, who will be without defender Karl Steele after he was sent off in the midweek 3-2 Championship Two defeat by Queen’s University.

It leaves Wakehurst still searching for their first competitive victory of the season after drawing their opening game at Portstewart.

“One point from our first two games isn’t where I thought we would be at this stage but we have to keep progressing and learn from our mistakes,” says Muir.

“I don’t think we have done ourselves justice in a footballing sense, in that we haven’t taken control of games in the way we were doing in pre-season, although the opposition now will be more physical.

“Having said that, I cannot fault the effort the players have put in over the opening weeks and we have scored the first goal in every game we have played so far.

“We also have a number of players to come back in, George Young, Owen Gregg, Conor Gregg, Conor Ross and Gavin Gilmore - all guys who were at the club last season - so that will strengthen the squad,” added Muir.

Andy Laughlin gave Wakehurst an early lead which they looked to be taking into the interval before the students hit a double whammy’ of two goals - both from set-pieces virtually on the stroke of half-time.

Queen’s added a third before Steele was sent off for a second bookable offence, after he had been adjudged to have brought down an opponent, having been cautioned for a handball offence in the first period.

Tiarnan Rafferty continued his impressive start to life at Irish League level when he curled home a free kick - his third goal in two games - but Wakehurst couldn’t fashion an equaliser, with Jordon Foster unable to convert from point-blank range in the closing stages.

Wakehurst: Cairns, R Young, Steele, Millar, McCartney, McCaughern, McClelland, Laughlin, Montgomery, Larkin, Rafferty. Subs: Maybin, Price, Morgan, Armstrong, Foster.