Ardstraw boss keeping players focused ahead of Boxing Day final

Thursday, 22 December 2016

ARDSTRAW FC have not won a cup competition since their formation in 1972, but on Boxing Day they have the chance to get their hands on some elusive silverware as they take on Limavady United in the Craig Memorial Cup Final at Fortwilliam Park, Tobermore, at 11.30am.

That will not be lingering in the mind of team coach, Gary Simpson, or his players on the run-up to Monday's match.

"The club has been going 44 years, and it's never won a cup. That's something I know the committee and supporters are thinking about. It'll be their just rewards for the club and facilities that they've built at Ardstraw.

"It's not what I'm thinking about though, or the players. We don't want the players top have any feeling of pressure. It something we don't even talk about.

"We are definitely well prepared for it. The last two or three weeks at training has been geared towards Boxing Day. The fitness levels are good.

"Other than David Connor, Simpson have everyone else in the panel available. A bonus is the return of captain Darren Boyd. We have strength throughout. Robbie Godfrey and Stevie Campbell up front, the two of them have scored the majority of our goals. They'd be threats to anyone.

"Then you add to that Samuel McKelvey who technically is as good as anyone in the league. Kristian Gibson has gone back in beside Lee Warnock at the back, and he has brought a lot of balance."

Simpon revealed though that while there will be some unhappy players in the squad when it comes to selecting his side for Mondays' game, he is well aware that everyone is fully committed to the Ardtsraw cause as they venture on in what has been an impressive season so far for the Vaughan's Holm men.

"There's excitement and buzz around the whole club. Even for the players who don't make the 16 on Boxing day, everyone has bought in. There's going to be a few disappointed players on the bench and who aren't on the panel, but I know we'll need a lot more than 16 players until the end of the season.

Ardstraw will be hoping to gain revenge for defeat in the 2014 final at the hands of Limavady. Simpson believes his side have learnt from that game, and they have come back later a much-improved side two years later.

"Two years ago we were in the exact same position, and we lost 1-0. So we've been there before, and the goal that beat us was a deflected effort that looped over our keeper.

"We gave a good account of ourselves that day. Everyone worked hard, and supporters enjoyed the day, but unfortunately we weren't able to win it. The only thing from our point of view is I think we are a better side, playing wise.

"We're under no illusions that lots of people are giving us a chance to win the game. The only thing that matters to me is the mentality of our players.Along as we believe within the four walls of our changing room, that's all that matters to me.

"I watched Limavady's semi-final against Moyola, and Limvady won 1-0. I thought they were a good side, very strong at the back. Joe McCready and Robbie Hume up front are two good strikers on their day.

"But we're just going to concentrate on ourselves. We are there to do a job on the pitch on Saturday. That comes from discipline, their application and their preparation going into it, to give it their best."


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