Ballyclare Comrades boss Stephen Hughes has warned Glentoran their season could sink to a new low at Dixon Park tonight.
The managerless Glens are in need of a morale boost after a shocking start to the campaign and, following their embarrassing loss to Annagh United in the League Cup, another knockout blow this evening would have the alarm bells ringing even louder.
Alan Kernaghan left the club after the 3-2 loss to Championship strugglers Annagh, the same side that were hammered 9-0 by leaders Dergview on Saturday.
Interviews for the manager’s post are being conducted this week and the Glens desperately need an inspirational leader who can guide them through this difficult period.
After winning only two of their opening eight Premiership fixtures, a shocking run which leaves them third from bottom in the league table, the tide must be turned quickly.
There’s little shelter when you’re in a storm like this one, however, and the Glens must show their mettle against the Comrades in a tricky Toals County Antrim Shield battle.
Hughes expects the east Belfast side, currently under the guidance of the club’s Director of Football Roy Coyle, to show more fighting spirit than they displayed against Annagh, but he still believes his men can give them a fresh headache.
“Glentoran may be going through what some people might call a bit of a crisis, but they are still a good team,” said the former Chimney Corner boss.
“I’m expecting them to come to us with the right attitude but this game is a welcome distraction from our league commitments. It’s a nice marker for where we are when compared to Premiership opposition.
“Winning breeds confidence and a positive result against Glentoran would really lift the boys. We treat every match like a cup final and that’s our mentality.
“Whatever Glentoran team arrives at Dixon Park, they will be no mugs. I’ve heard the stories about Nacho Novo being on £1,000 a week and our players will be lucky to earn that in a year!
“It’s a different world and we are facing a different animal. We are a club that lives within our means and develops young talent like Joel Cooper and Andrew Doyle, who are now at Glenavon. Our boys want to play for the shirt and the club. That is their motivation.
“I’ve really got my hands full at Ballyclare to worry about Glentoran. If I wasn’t managing or coaching the team I’d be out there supporting the club. I’m sure the Glens will sort themselves out. Annagh United enjoyed a fantastic result against them but with the greatest of respect to them, I don’t believe Glentoran will show any complacency this time.
“They will be fully focused for this match and won’t take their eye off the ball. If they do show any weaknesses hopefully we can exploit them.”
Elsewhere in the Shield tonight, holders Ballymena United welcome H&W Welders to the Showgrounds while Linfield take on Donegal Celtic at Windsor Park. Cliftonville welcome Bangor to Solitude while Ards host Knockbreda and PSNI travel to Carrick Rangers.
Premier Intermediate side Newington also take on Albert Foundry.
There is also Mid-Ulster Cup action tonight with Glenavon away to Newry City AFC and Portadown welcoming Rathfriland Rangers to Shamrock Park (both 7.45pm).
• Portadown have been asked to submit all their relevant paperwork to the Irish FA appeals board today so a new date can be arranged for the club’s appeals against a 12-point deduction and suspension from all football related activity.
The deduction was imposed for the club being found to have paid Peter McMahon while he was registered as an amateur, while the suspension relates to the club’s failure to pay disciplinary fees for undisclosed payments to players.
After a meeting last Monday, the Irish FA said a decision would be made after “additional documentary evidence” is submitted within seven days.