Sports

City ready for 'two cup finals'

Thursday, 4 May 2017

City ready for 'two cup finals' thumbnailMarty Rice fully believes his side have enough experience and talent to edge past Newry City AFC in their play-off clash this week.

ARMAGH City manager Marty Rice is confident that his team can overcome a strong Newry City AFC side in their two-legged relegation/promotion play-off this week.

The Holm Park side have had a season to forget in the NIFL Championship this season and they travel to Newry this evening (Tuesday, May 2) to take on a confident Newry City AFC in the first leg.

Three days later they welcome Newry to Holm Park, with a place in the NIFL Championship at stake.

Rice said that his side have 'two cup finals' ahead of them this week.

“This is one of the biggest weeks in the recent history of the club and essentially they are like two cup finals.

“As a club and as a group of players we have worked incredibly hard to get into this league and it has proved to be a very competitive league and the football played is of a very good standard.

“We want to stay in this league, continue to build and to grow both on and off the field and this week is a massive week for us."

Rice admitted that it has been a difficult season for the club, but said that since January they have regrouped and produced some positive results and performances.

“When I look back on this season it has been a bit of a nightmare from start to finish.

“We have had serious injuries to some key players, players leaving us in January for one reason or another and a few suspensions to deal with.

“However, I feel from January onwards we have had some positive results and performances.

“There were a lot of people writing us off as a team and as a club and since January we have regrouped and we have a really close knit changing room again.

The Holm Park manager said that his side are well versed in dealing with the pressure that comes with big matches.

“We have had plenty of big games during my reign and even this season we have been involved in some important games.

“In the Mid-Ulster Cup final we pushed an all-conquering Warrenpoint Town all the way and then in the Irish Cup we acquitted ourselves really well against Glenavon and a few decisions just went against us.

“Newry will go into the game with a fair bit of momentum, but this is their first year back in the Irish League and I think our players will have the edge in terms of experience and playing at a higher level of football.

“Newry are a big club with a good fan base and they will go into the games used to winning and it is up to us to deal with that."

Rice admitted that home advantage in the second leg could prove pivotal as his side look to avoid dropping back to Intermediate football.

“We will go into both games with confidence and on Friday night for the second leg we will bring Newry back to Holm Park, which is a huge boost.

“On our home pitch we fancy ourselves against anyone and our home form is pretty good this season.

“Newry will probably have good backing tonight (Tuesday, May 2), but my players are experienced enough to deal with those sort of occasions.

“I am really hoping that because the game is on Friday night that we will have a good support behind us.

“Normally our home games clash with the local leagues and people can't get along and support us.

“I am really hoping the local community come out and give us their support because the players deserve it.

“They have shown some incredible character over the last few months and they deserve a good vocal home support."

Rice added that any plans for next season have to be put on ice and admitted it is crucial that City remain in the second tier.

“It has been a difficult season for one reason or another, but we know how quickly things can change in football.

“We are an ambitious club and I am an ambitious manager and I want to be pitting my wits against the likes of Tipton and Hamilton and be involved in massive games.

“We want to progress and regroup in the summer, but first we have to secure our place in the division and this week gives us an opportunity to do that."

Rice concluded by saying that he has faith in his players to go out and get the job done.

“Football is a game of fine margins and we have two massive games this week.

“Two cup finals to secure our place in senior football.

“I have full confidence in the players to go out there and get the job.

“What this group have achieved over the years has been fantastic and they deserve to stay in senior football and I see no reason why we can't get the better of Newry over two games."

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