Belfast Telegraph

Ballinamallard players repay fans with bus to Ballyclare

By Keith Bailie

Ballinamallard United players have clubbed together to pay for the supporters bus to Ballyclare, for today's match against Ards.

Ballinamallard captain Mark Stafford says the gesture is an apology for the dismal performance at Shamrock Park earlier in the month, when they lost 11-0 to Portadown.

Stafford explained: "Each player gave a donation of £20 towards the supporters' costs as an apology for our terrible performance against Portadown.

"The fans paid a lot of money to travel to Portadown that day, so we thought it was only right that we helped them hire a bus and get a few beers in for the trip to Ballyclare.

"It's an apology, as the fans have given us great support, not just at Portadown, but at every ground. When we were losing 11-0 they were still singing songs, so we thought we'd show our appreciation."

The last time Ballinamallard played Ards at Dixon Park was back in October 2011, when the Mallards won 5-0 on their way to the Belfast Telegraph Championship title. Defender Stafford believes tomorrow's game will be a much tighter affair.

"It's going to be a tough challenge at Ballyclare as the pitch is difficult, which makes it hard to play football, which won't suit us. I think it will be about who wants it the most. Ards are hungry for points, so I expect it to be a real battle."

Although Ards are bottom of the league Stafford believes Niall Currie's men can still avoid relegation in their first season back in the big time.

"It's a very competitive league and it's not for me to comment on another team, but I think Ards will pick up points along the way, I just hope it's not against us on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Currie believes that Comber man Graeme McKibbin has the potential to become a top- class Irish League goalkeeper.

Since gaining promotion to the Premiership, both McKibbin and his deputy, Simon Steele, have struggled to find form.

At Dungannon last Saturday an error from McKibbin allowed Darren Boyce to score the winner, while on Tuesday Steele made a string of mistakes as Ards lost 3-2 to Linfield.

Despite Saturday's error, former Bangor goalkeeper Currie still has faith in his goalkeepers.

"We took the opportunity to give Simon Steele a game in the County Antrim Shield and he had a bad night at the office, but Simon is still a good goalkeeper. I'm not going to hang anyone out to dry in public.

"As for Graeme McKibbin, I think he would be honest enough to admit he hasn't been performing at the level he is capable of.

"But McKibbin still the first choice goalkeeper at this football club. I decided I wanted to take him out of the firing line, but it was always going to be a case of bringing him back in after a game or two.

"This is a tough league and Graeme needs to be mentally tough.

"But as a goalkeeper, he ticks every box."

Belfast Telegraph

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