Sports

Points over pride in derby

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Points over pride in derby thumbnailHEAD TO HEAD...Armagh City manager Marty Rice and Loughgall manager Dean Smith are both well aware of the importance of next Monday's derby clash at Holm Park.

ARMAGH City and Loughgall are preparing themselves for a monumental derby clash on Boxing Day (Monday, December 26) and both managers admitted that defeat would be a huge blow in their attempts to move away from the relegation zone.

City (11th) and Loughgall (10th) sit precariously in the bottom three, with Annagh United propping up the table in 12th place.

Indeed victory next Monday afternoon could help to move either side away from the relegation zone and Armagh City manager Marty Rice said it is 'their biggest game in a long long time'.

“Last year's Bob Radcliffe Cup final, which was scheduled for Boxing Day, pales into insignificance compared to the importance of this game.

“It is the proverbial six pointer and we know that if we want to move away from the relegation zone then we have to beat the teams around us.

“Staying in the Championship is crucial for this football club.

“The Loughgall game starts an important run of games for us.

“We have Loughgall at home, PSNI at home and Annagh at home in the next three league games!"

Rice is hopeful that his side can use their scrappy 2-1 win over Loughgall in the Mid-Ulster Cup to inspire them to victory at Holm Park again.

“Hopefully that win will help us pick up some confidence.

“We wanted to use that game as something that could lift us and drive us on in the second half of the season.

“It is a big derby game for us and hopefully we will have a good crowd at it.

“We want to make home advantage count and over the last few seasons our home form has been good and we want to make Holm Park a fortress.

“We want to make it difficult for Loughgall on Monday, it is a big pitch and we want to get it down and play and do it at a high tempo!"

Rice admitted that he will be glad to see the back of 2016 and hopes that Monday's derby clash can help them start the second half of the season in a more positive fashion.

“The first part of this season has been a nightmare and we have been riddled with injuries and unavailability and I will be glad to see the back of it.

“For us the Loughgall game is the start of the second half of the season and a win would give us some confidence and let us really kick on."

Rice concluded by saying that his players are used to making sacrifices over the Festive period to ensure they are ready for the challenges in front of them and admitted that the new Boxing Day league clash is an exciting prospect.

“It really is set up for a good game and a great day out for everyone and it should be a good occasion.

“I know that I will certainly enjoy my Christmas a bit more if we get that win on Boxing Day!"

Loughgall manager Dean Smith admitted that gaining three points on Monday is much more important than any local bragging rights.

“Both sides are in the bottom three and they are both looking to get out of it and a win for either side is massive.

“It is a massive game, but we know that if we play to our potential that we will get the win.

“Everyone knows each other inside out and neither side will spring any major surprises on the pitch."

Loughgall were edged out narrowly in the semi-finals of the Mid-Ulster Cup in their last derby clash, but Smith said that neither side came out of the game with any psychological advantage.

“It was a scrappy game and lets just say it wasn't one for the purists!

“From our point of view we played nowhere near as well as we know we can and neither side came out with any real praise.

“We want to right the wrongs of that game and get the three points on Boxing Day."

Smith acknowledged that City pose some threats to his side on Monday, but said that he has been reinforcing that Loughgall's sole focus in the next few weeks should be on themselves.

“Their front four is as good as any in the league, but it is up to us to stop them and stamp our own authority on the game.

“We have a good squad here and I have been reinforcing to the players recently that it all about us from now on in."

Smith admitted that playing a league game will be a new phenomenon for his squad, but said that getting three points is more important than any cup final win.

“It will be strange for both clubs, as they both have good tradition in the Bob Radcliffe Cup final on Boxing Day.

“In some ways next Monday's game is much more important than any cup final win and a win for us would open up a five point gap.

“The league is our bread and butter, a nice cup draw or a run in the cup is great, but our sole focus this season is on the league."

Kick off on Monday afternoon is 3pm at Holm Park.

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