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Friendly fire as Kirk guns for pal Tommy

By Graham Luney

Paul Kirk is planning to give his old pal Tommy Leeman a harsh introduction to life as a Premier League manager this afternoon.

The newly appointed Larne supremo is a close friend of Kirk but the friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes at Ballyskeagh today.

"I am pleased that Tommy got the job," said the Whites boss. " He is a good friend of mine and his wife works with my wife.

"I wish him all the best in his new challenge - he has real enthusiasm for the game, is an infectious character and it's the old adage that when a new manager comes in performance levels tend to rise."

However, Kirk is looking for his players to produce a "huge response" after their 2-0 defeat to Ballymena United.

"We need to make amends for that loss," he added. "We lost our discipline against Ballymena and threw our toys out of the pram.

"I know we can play a lot better than that and it is very unusual for us to lose control in that way.

"But the boys will be very determined to return to winning ways against Larne."

The home side are boosted by the return of Darren Armour from suspension and Peter McCann from injury while Ryan McCann is banned. Andy Kilmartin did not train on Thursday night as he has a calf injury but he is expected to tackle Larne.

"Ballymena got a good result against us but they have a tough period coming up as well," added Kirk.

"For us to be one point behind them in fifth position at this time of the season is a decent statistic and I would have taken that at the start of the campaign.

"But it now looks like the top three are pulling away from the rest of the league. Linfield, Glentoran and Cliftonville are getting stronger while we are trying to hang on to their coat-tails. What Eddie Patterson has done at Cliftonville is nothing short of remarkable.

"They are an inspiration to other teams throughout the division. But I have been impressed with so many teams as they are more competitive, fitter and very well organised.

"This is a very tough league and now we are going into a tough seven days. Even though Limavady lost to us last Saturday I was very impressed with their professional approach."

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