Ballymena United James Knowles admits Sky Blues are focused

James Knowles
James Knowles

Ballymena United midfielder James Knowles insists no-one at the Showgrounds is getting carried away as they prepare to face Institute in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday afternoon.

David Jeffrey’s side have won their last 11 matches with the last one being a 1-0 win over Crusaders in the semi-final of the BetMcLean League Cup at Seaview on Tuesday night and they are also currently top of the league table.

But Knowles says any talk of winning a title has been banished at the Showgrounds - even though they are unbeaten in their last 16 matches.

“We are on a good run at the minute and if we keep on winning but we are just taking it one game at a time.

“And that is how we look at it. We have to take it a game at a time and take it as it comes.

“We are not going to walk out this week and think we are top of the league and are just going to win.

“That doesn’t happen in this league.

“We have another tough one at home to Institute this weekend.

“I was impressed with them when we played at their place.

“And again it will be very difficult but we have to stick to our basics and keep working hard - because that is what has got us to where we are.

“We have played all the big teams and we have beaten them so we believe we can compete with these guys.”

And Knowles believes they deserved to see off Crusaders in the League Cup semi-final.

“I thought in the first half we were very good and should have had a couple of goals.

“The chat at half-time was just to keep doing what we had been doing and thankfully Leroy Millar got the chance and stuck it away.

“Leroy has been brilliant this year and he does miles during every game and he has been magnificent.”

And Institute Paddy McLaughlin is hoping Joe McCready and Michael McCrudden continue their goal-scoring exploits when Institute travel to United this weekend.

McCrudden has already netted 10 goals this season while McCready has five in ’Stute’s last nine league outings.

McLaughlin has again reiterated that his captain won’t be leaving in next month’s transfer window despite a host of clubs keeping tabs on the ex-Derry City man.

“There should be interest in Michael as he’s one of the best players in the league and one of the top strikers in the division,” insisted the ‘Stute boss..

“It’s to be expected that people are monitoring him but I can tell you now that Michael will definitely be with Institute for this season and hopefully beyond, if we can negotiate a new deal with him.

“The team need him and I’m sure Michael needs the team.”

“Joe has been top drawer over the last month. We challenged him a few weeks ago.

“We all know about his ability but his consistency and work-rate off the ball was questioned at times.

“However, over the last month of football he’s shown he’s more than capable of playing in the Premiership.

“If he plays the way he has been, he’ll get the credit he deserves . At the minute, he’s up there with the best of them in the division.”

McLaughlin confirmed that centre-back Caoimhin Bonner and midfielder Aaron Jarvis will both miss this weekend’s clash through suspension.

“It’s unfortunate that we are facing the league leaders without two of our main players but I have faith in the squad, whoever gets the shirt won’t let us down,” he added.

“In fact I’ll be looking for them to put in a display to give me a selection headache for the Cliftonville game in two weeks time but first we must face Ballymena,” he added.