Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Glentoran’s Clarke up for title fight

Richard Clarke wants Glentoran to bounce back to winning ways against Glenavon

Richard Clarke is determined that he and his Glentoran team-mates won’t hand the Carling Premiership title to Linfield on a plate.

Instead the Oval midfielder’s plan is to overturn the 12-point gap the Blues hold over the Glens at the top of the table and claim a league and cup double.

Financial constraints at the east Belfast club meant that there was a lot more going than coming as far as playing personnel was concerned last summer, with manager Scott Young only able to bring in Neal Gawley and later David Howland.

Some who did stay took pay cuts, including Clarke who insists ‘medals mean more than money.’

The Glens did eat into Linfield’s lead at the summit last weekend, when they made the most of the Blues failing to see off Ballymena United by beating Lisburn Distillery 2-0.

Clarke insists that’s how things will have to be done, with no-one in the east of the city conceding anything to their rivals from the south.

“Nobody at Glentoran will ever settle for being second no matter what the situation is, least of all Scott Young,” said Clarke, who will target three points at home to Glenavon tomorrow afternoon.

“Glentoran are always expected to win things. The league is in Linfield’s hands and it’s theirs to lose, but if they slip-up we have to be there to capitalise.

“We made up two points on them last week when they drew with Ballymena and we won at Distillery and we have to make sure they if they drop points again we make the most of it.

“We’ve been in the position before where they’ve lost and we’ve ended up losing too and that’s when we end up kicking ourselves, but we’ve only ourselves to blame at those times.

“It’s the worst feeling when you come in after a defeat to find that the team you’re chasing has lost too and you’ve missed an opportunity to close on them.

“If Linfield keep winning then so be it, all we can do is look after ourselves and give ourselves the best chance of winning the league if they do falter.”

Clarke has won a Co-operative Insurance Cup and a County Antrim Shield winners medal since signing for the Glens 18 months ago, but he knows the real judgement of success will be in winning one of the big prizes.

And he isn’t giving up on landing both this time around.

“We’re disappointed to have gone out of the Co-operative Insurance Cup on Wednesday night to Portadown, especially as we’re the holders,” said Clarke.

“There are still positives there for us though. Our task in the league is a tough one, but we’re still fighting and we’re still in the Irish Cup.

“We’ve two games in hand on Linfield, we’ve still to play them twice — once before the split and once after. That’s the 12 points that we need to close the gap.

“We have to be at the top of our game and try to keep winning. It won’t be easy, but we can’t just give up when there’s a chance there for us to win the league.”

There is good news on the injury front for the Glens, with Sean Ward close to a first-team comeback.

The defender had his first outing since breaking his collarbone in a Co. Antrim Shield semi-final against Crusaders back in October when he played for the Glens second string on Monday night.

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John Gregg last night resigned from his position as manager of Championship side Institute, who lie third from bottom of the table.

Gregg’s assistant Allan Blair, a former Stute player, will now take charge, with his first game being against Ballinamallard United on Saturday.

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