Ferguson set for Jenkins gamble?

Allan Jenkins could make his return from injury for Ballymena United in tonight's County Antrim Shield final. Picture: Press Eye.
Allan Jenkins could make his return from injury for Ballymena United in tonight's County Antrim Shield final. Picture: Press Eye.

ALLAN Jenkins could be poised for a sensational return to the Ballymena United squad for tonight’s (Tuesday) County Antrim Shield final against Linfield.

The Sky Blues’ Scottish captain has been sidelined with a knee ligament injury since September and wasn’t expected to be available for consideration until near Christmas.

However, Jenkins has recovered ahead of schedule and played 70 minutes for United’s Reserves on Saturday with no ill effects.

Ferguson has already insisted that the experienced midfielder won’t be in his starting line-up for the clash with the Blues at the Oval (7.45pm) but Times Sport understands the manager hasn’t ruled out the possibility of having Jenkins listed among the substitutes.

“He certainly won’t be starting on Tuesday night – it’s been a little too long out for him to fire him straight into a cup final.”

The likely unavailability of midfielder Gavin Taggart, who limped off in Saturday’s league defeat at Windsor Park, might also sway Ferguson towards involving Jenkins, although Mark Surgenor is also available after completing a two-match suspension.

“Gavin hurt his ankle a couple of weeks ago. We gambled with him on Saturday and it didn’t pay off and he will probably have to sit out a couple of weeks.

“We’re lacking numbers all over the squad, players who make a difference to the team, whereas Linfield have the possibility of changing maybe three or four players.

“We don’t know what team they’ll be playing but they probably have a fair idea what team we’ll be playing.

“Saturday gave us a wee lift – it was certainly a better performance than the previous week.

“All I’m asking of our boys is to go and and play the way we want to play, put in a shift and hopefully come out on the right end of the result.

“It’s a good incentive because the club hasn’t been in a cup final for six years and haven’t won a trophy for 23 years so it’s something for us to aim for, to become part of Ballymena’s history.

“It’s not often that Ballymena win trophies but at the end of the day it’s 90 minutes against 11 players so if we can match them up we have a real chance.

“Linfield will be undoubtedly favourites but hopefully we can narrow the gap -we will go in and give it our best effort.

“The reality is that Linfield have a bigger squad with better players and we have to try and overcome that.

“I don’t go in for this idea that we have nothing to lose – we have a County Antrim Shield final to lose and we will be very, very disappointed if we do,” added Ferguson, who will also have to decide whether to recall keeper Dwayne Nelson or retain experienced Staurt Addis, who was between the posts in Saturday’s league game.

Ferguson may also opt to keep teenage winger William Bingham in the squad after giving him a start on Saturday.

“William has been in the Reserves and we’ve brought him up into the first team and we thought we would give him a go and he did well in his first match at Windsor - he didn’t do himself any harm,” added Ferguson.

Seven Towers Supporters’ Club is running two buses to tonight’s final, leaving Henry Street car park at 6.30pm.

Seven Towers are also running a bus to Saturday’s Danske Bank Premiership match at Donegal Celtic, leaving the same venue at 1.45pm.