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Loughgall must have belief in Premiership dream after Cup final win over Glenavon, says Nathaniel Ferris

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Nathaniel Ferris has scored 21 goals for Loughgall this season

Nathaniel Ferris has scored 21 goals for Loughgall this season

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Nathaniel Ferris has scored 21 goals for Loughgall this season

While Loughgall's Mid Ulster Cup final success may be seen in certain quarters as something of giant killing, it's not a view shared inside the Lakeview Park dressing room.

The Championship side edged Glenavon 3-2 on Tuesday night to lift the trophy for only the third time as Nathaniel Ferris' brace added to Scott McCullough's strike to overcome Dale Malone's own goal opener and a Conor McCloskey equaliser at 2-2.

While it was a Lurgan Blues side featuring nine changes from the 3-0 weekend win over Ballymena United, this was still a result that will be looked upon with surprise.

Just not from Loughgall.

Rather, double goal-scorer Ferris is keen to view the result as a morale-boosting step towards the ultimate goal of securing a Premiership return, providing a promotion license can be obtained.

"The club will back us 100% if we can get that far," said the 21-year-old star striker.

"It's going to be hard to catch Portadown at this stage but if we get to a play-off, we have every reason to be confident. There's just a lot of work to go before we get there."

Loughgall are currently seven points behind second placed Ballinamallard with a game in hand and six clear of Newry having played a game more. They know a top three finish would be enough to enter the end-of-season showdown for a spot in the Promised Land.

"Tuesday's win definitely gives me confidence anyway," Ferris continued. "Everyone at the club should show great belief after this, keep doing what we have been doing for the last six months and bring that into the end of the season."

Loughgall enjoyed a three-year stint in the top tier from 2004 to 2007 during the days of a 16-team Premiership.

Since winning the Championship in 2010, only to be denied promotion after failing to obtain a Premiership license, the Villagers' best finish is sixth.

"We were flying last year and then fell away," continued Ferris. "When we started so well this year, we were of the mindset that we couldn't fall away again. We're still picking up points and winning games but it seems to be the bigger games that we turn up for.

"That's one of the problems that we need to rectify at the minute but I see no reason why the club can't go further."

Now under the tutelage of former Annagh United manager Dean Smith, an impressive squad has been assembled featuring the likes of former Crusaders duo Marcio Soares and Jordan Lyttle as well as ex Dungannon pair Fra Brennan and Jamie Douglas.

Then there's 22-year-old left winger Peter Campbell, who Ferris pinpoints as the best player in not only Loughgall's panel but the division as a whole.

It's playing among that panel that the forward identifies as chief among the reasons for his sudden rise to principle goal-getter, now on 21 for the season.

"I love playing for Loughgall," said the former Portadown and Dungannon man.

"They really believe in you as a player and there's a backroom staff there that are working towards the same goals as I am. A bit of ambition really kicks people on.

"I've never had anywhere near this many goals in a season because I've never settled at a club like I have at Loughgall.

"The team around you helps. As a centre-forward, you need support. You need good service and this year that has really come."

Tuesday's victory was the second time Loughgall have beaten Glenavon in recent seasons, adding to the Irish Cup quarter-final shock in 2018.

"The performances we've been putting in this year, I think everybody had the same confidence I was feeling before the game," Ferris continues. "That's the mindset we need to be in going into games. Hopefully everybody will realise we can go out and beat Premiership teams. I see no reason as to why not.

"Everyone as a kid wants to play in the Premiership. I'll take this development and see where it takes me. It all comes down to hard work. Once you slow down and get comfortable, that's when you start having problems."

Giant-killing or not, Tuesday's victory isn't the destination for Ferris or for Loughgall but it is another milestone on the road.

And they're not keen on slowing down.

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