Heat is on for ‘Straw and Athletic

Strabane's David Taylor competes for the ball against Newbuildings

Strabane’s David Taylor competes for the ball against Newbuildings

NORTH Tyrone sides Ardstraw and Strabane Athletic will continue their quest for a first ever Northern Ireland Intermediate League title with crucial away games this weekend.
Gary Simpson’s Ardstraw, who returned to the top of the league following a superb 2-1 victory over Trojans at Vaughan’s Holm, face yet another top-of-the-table clash when they lock horns with Portstewart.
Fifth-placed Athletic, meanwhile, visit Oxford United Stars following back-to-back wins against Dungiven and basement boys Newbuildings, who Neil Carlin’s side defeated 5-1 at Melvin on Saturday.
Goals by Oran McShane, Aaron Porter, Gary Henderson, Ronan McBreaty and Shane Brennan ultimately wrapped up a convincing win for Athletic and manager Neil Carlin has now challenged his players to make it three-in-a-row at Oxford.
“That’s something we haven’t achieved this season yet. Our first objective is to find some consistency and that means taking it one game at a time,” he said.
“As far as winning the league title goes, it’s out of our hands at the minute.”
Ardstraw’s prospects are looking considerably more promising. The morale-boosting win over Trojans has given them real hope that they can go on and clinch a first ever league crown.
A lot though will hinge on Saturday’s game against Portstewart. The Seasiders trail the Vaughan’s Holm outfit by two points but the second-placed team are still unbeaten and crucially have three games in hand.
After watching striker Robbie Godfrey net twice in the win over Trojans, ‘Straw assistant Mark McHale admitted Saturday’s clash was one his players couldn’t afford to lose.
“It’s going to be tight game down there. Ideally we need to win but, yeah, we certainly can’t afford to lose it,” said the Derryman.
“At half-time against Trojans we spoke about the need to start winning the big games and to be fair the players delivered. Hopefully it’ll be the same again this weekend.”
Both games kick-off at 2pm.

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