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Ervin relishing chance to take the wind out of Crusaders' sails


By Alex Mills

Jim Ervin hopes to do his bit to prove himself wrong when two of the Danske Bank Premiership's in-form outfits lock horns this evening.

The Ballymena United skipper will lead his men out at Seaview against Crusaders, who have been in mean and menacing mood of late and are leading the chase to catch Coleraine at the top of the table.

The Crues are currently in second spot, six points behind the Bannsiders, and Ervin knows he and his Sky Blue cohorts will be in for a tough evening.

"I tipped them to win the league because when you look at their squad and strength in depth, it is phenomenal," explained Ervin. "But you want to play against the best players in the league and that's what we're going to be up against.

"We know we have to be on our mettle if we're to get anything, but as a group of players we are confident in our own performances of late and we're looking forward to going to Seaview."

Ervin has tackled and dealt with some of the best wingmen in the business over his long and illustrious career, and tonight he is relishing getting to grips with Paul Heatley again - as long as Crues boss Stephen Baxter doesn't spring a surprise.

"You've got Heatley, you've got Cush (David Cushley), you've got Gavin Whyte, Jordan Forsythe can play on the left, there are so many options. But regardless of who it is you know you're going to be up against quality," he said.

"You look at their squad and the boys on the bench could probably walk into any team in the league, and that just goes to show you what you're up against, but you always want to test yourself against the best players in the league.

"Matches between ourselves and Crusaders always seem to be good affairs and there are so many good games over the Christmas period. When you look at the programme over the festive period they are all very tight and competitive games and that's something you like, you like to be involved in big games."

And on that subject, the thorny issue of the congested festive fixture list is one that isn't furrowing the brow of Ervin too much.

"I don't think there are too many games because at the end of the day if you weren't playing those games we would be in training anyway and you'd much rather play a game than train," he stressed. "Realistically, we've got Friday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday so it isn't really that much more than usual.

"In past years there has been maybe a two-day turnaround, but I think if you were to ask any player they would much rather play games than train.

"Players want to get on with it and if you look at the Premier League or Scottish Premiership there are a lot of games around the festive period and that makes it a bit more special.

"It's the same here because you get a bigger crowd because a lot of junior football is over, people go to games with their families around this period and it's good for the players to play in front of a big crowd."

And he has praise, too, for the Sky Blue faithful who stuck by the team as they wobbled a little at the start of the campaign having done so well last season.

"One thing you have to give our supporters credit for is that when things were difficult for us they still turned out in their numbers and backed us," he added. "They didn't turn their back on us and we've hit a wee bit of form there and hopefully we can repay them and kick on.

"We haven't made any excuses as to how our form was at the start of the season. It wasn't good enough and we know that. We've hit a wee bit of form, we've only lost one in our last eight or nine and it's a good run, don't get me wrong, but it still could be better.

"But at one stage I think we had 10 players out and we only had 16 to choose from, and two of them were young kids, but we haven't used that as an excuse.

"Top six was our main objective. From my time at Ballymena and talking to the boys that have been here longer than me, the real problem has been consistency.

"We never made that top six and did well in the cups, the consistency level was never there, but last season we made the top six and being consistent is reaching that time and time again.

"It was a tough ask to go and repeat what we did last year but that's what we're hoping to do."

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