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McClean is fired up to help Ards avoid drop

Staying focused: Craig McClean takes on Warrenpoint earlier this season
Staying focused: Craig McClean takes on Warrenpoint earlier this season

By Graham Luney

Craig McClean has admitted he's desperate to avoid having the word 'relegated' on his football CV.

Ards appear on course to go into a promotion/relegation play-off at the end of the season but there's still a chance they can automatically drop into the Championship.

Going into today's last round of fixtures, Warren Feeney's men are three points ahead of basement side Newry City but the Mournemen can climb over their rivals if they win, Ards lose and there's a four-goal swing in City's favour.

It may appear unlikely but Ards still have work to do to ensure their survival as they head to Warrenpoint Town while Darren Mullen's men host Dungannon Swifts.

Michael McLellan's seventh-minute volley gave Ards a crucial 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts earlier this week while Newry tasted defeat at Institute.

The pendulum has swung in Ards' favour at the vital time and experienced defender McClean, who won three league titles at Crusaders, is not relishing the prospect of crashing out of the Danske Bank Premiership. "You won't hear any of our players saying they want to play in the Championship," said the 33-year-old.

"No disrespect to the teams there, but once you taste life in the Premiership which I am lucky enough to do, you want to hold onto that.

"Personally, I have never been relegated and I don't intend to have that on my CV.

"We will take Saturday first and go in with a positive attitude. There's still work to be done."

Ards axed Colin Nixon and brought in former Northern Ireland striker Feeney in a late move to dig themselves out of this hole and they are close to the great escape.

"I got on really well with Nicky and was sad to see him go, as were most of the players I'm sure, but there's no doubt sometimes a fresh voice and fresh ideas at a club can make a difference," added McClean. "Without question, the new manager has given a few players an extra spring in their step and more confidence.

"So far, so good in terms of the atmosphere."

McLellan has found his magic touch just as the relegation trapdoor was coming into view.

McClean added: "Michael has been one of the players that didn't get a regular run-out under the previous management but Warren has given him more of an opportunity and he has scored a few crucial goals.

"He has the ability but you want to see him show it on a consistent basis. Sometimes it's a confidence issue and he has found a little under the new manager.

"Warren works with the strikers and the striking drills are very important.

"He has certainly made a positive impact on Michael and long may it continue."

Ards are quietly confident they can avoid the drop and carry their improved form into a play-off battle.

"We have put ourselves in a good position with regard to making the play-off," said McClean. "The last few weeks have been positive after the disappointment of losing at Newry.

"We have bounced back and got two wins and a draw so that's seven points from our last nine.

"We still have a job to do but I'd rather be in our position than Newry's.

"But if we lose 2-0 and Newry win by the same scoreline they will go into the play-off."

• Ards boss Feeney has received sponsorship from Charles Hurst.

"I'm delighted to receive this backing," said Feeney.

Belfast Telegraph


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