Portadown and Glentoran gear up for clash of titans
Ronnie McFall has listed a string of major doubts ahead of tomorrow's Irish Cup showdown with holders Glentoran.
Goal ace Gary Twigg, defender Ross Redman, goalkeeper David Miskelly and midfielders Shane O'Connor and Tim Mouncey all missed last Saturday's dress rehearsal and the Ports boss concedes: "It's a case of wait and see but it's fair to say we're sweating on most of them.
"Twigg has a pulled thigh muscle and didn't make the Crusaders match or Saturday's game at The Oval. Miskelly had to be pulled from the warm-up because he was still feeling the effects of the medial ligament injury he picked up against Crusaders.
"Mouncey is still not 100% and O'Connor had to come off against Crusaders and missed the game against Glentoran.
"All must be considered major doubts for Saturday. Without these lads we would be well below strength. It's a problem because we only have a small squad and are not in a position where we can rotate.
"But the Irish Cup remains a special competition with my highlight being our first win in 1991."
Emmett Friars is providing another headache for McFall.
He was on the bench at The Oval on Saturday but was nowhere near fit and didn't make a contribution.
McFall revealed: "Friars has damaged a lateral ligament. After these guys we have only kids to call upon. Hopefully being at home will make a difference but we're in no doubt it will be another hard match."
Rival boss Eddie Patterson is looking on the bright side and is confident of having new signing Curtis Allen ready to tackle the Ports. Aaron Boyd will return from suspension but a question mark still hangs over injured striker Mark Miskimmin, while Jay Magee is suspended.
Patterson said: "It's another big match and I'm gutted, but we hope to have Curtis Allen.
"Calum Birney is almost fit and if he comes in it will be a case of a like for like replacement. He's a great young lad with a bright future ahead of him.
"Curtis will be a big plus."
The Glens boss added: "Saturday's 2-2 draw will have no bearing on the Irish Cup tie.
"It's a different ball game but we'll need everyone fit because Portadown is a tough place to go to. My boys must realise matches are a lot longer than the 45 minutes we played for against Portadown on Saturday. It has been the same over the course of the last three games. We'll have to do better than Saturday.
"I was delighted we got out of jail with a point for on the second half performance we didn't deserve anything out of the game.
"Nobody likes back-to-back games, as you don't want to give your hand away for the cup game.
"But I am a greedy bugger, and I think every manager is the same. I want to win everything.
"This season is the most competitive for years, every team capable of beating each other and we have been given a tough start to our Irish Cup defence."
* Crusaders midfielder Sean Cleary looks set to join Ards on loan while Glentoran have joined the pursuit of Ruaidhri Higgins who has left Derry City.
* Darren Boyce has signed a two and a half year contract at Ballymena United.
The 27-year-old striker has joined from rivals Coleraine, having recently been recalled from a one-year loan at Dungannon Swifts.
"We are delighted to get someone of Darren's ability. He'll add quality to our frontline and score goals," said United boss Glenn Ferguson.