ARDSTRAW and Strabane Athletic are going into today’s Northern Ireland Intermediate League Cup semi-final on the back of contrasting league fortunes but neither manager is reading much into the differing form of their opponents.
Last Saturday, Athletic were 3-1 winners at Newbuildings with Warner Mullen, Kyle Harte and Sean Ferry on target. In stark contrast Ardstraw went down by a similar scoreline to Maiden City with Robbie Godfrey getting the home side’s solitary goal.
Athletic are currently third in the table after an unbeaten start to their campaign and have also reached the fifth round of the Tennents Irish Cup while today’s opponents are third bottom, having won two of their seven league games thus far.
All the indicators appear to point towards a Strabane victory but manager Eamon Curry is long enough in the tooth to know that form counts for little in a one-off cup-tie.
“You always look forward to game day and even more so Saturday given it’s a cup semi-final,” he said.
“It’s a semi-final, a derby game and another game to go out and win.
“Ardstraw’s league form is not reflective of the quality of players they have and it could be it’ll be a welcome break for them.
“One thing’s for sure you always get a seriously competitive game against Ardstraw and the players will need to make sure their heads are on it.
“We have been getting some fantastic support this season and it would be good to get a win to keep the numbers up.
“It’s the last game before Christmas and it would be great to sign off with a win.”
Opposite number Lee Warnock said that despite recent results he and his players were going into the game quietly confident. The teams have already met twice this season with each recording a convincing victory and Warnock is only too aware the key to success against Ardstraw’s near neighbours.
“If we are clinical in front of goal and cut out the mistakes, then we can do the business,” he said.
“Against Maiden City last week the visitors probably had three or four chances and scored three. We had six or seven, including a penalty, and scored one.
“If we are clinical from the word go we can come out on top. We must take our chances and lift the concentration levels at the back.”
Last weekend Robbie Godfrey grabbed Ardstraw’s only goal with a half volley from the edge of the box following a training ground corner routine while Sammy McKelvey had his penalty saved.
For today’s clash Warnock will be missing the services of Jamie Adams, who still stands suspended, while the recovering Paul Fusco and Kenny Williamson probably won’t return to first team action until the new year. Athletic find themselves in the same boat with Ronan McBrearty, Alex Carolan and Tom Carlin remaining side-lined for the time being. Aaron Patterson remains douftful with a hamstring injury.