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Taking on Glens is always so emotional for me: Nixon

By Graham Luney

Facing Glentoran will always feel special for Colin Nixon.

So says the man himself ahead of an intriguing encounter today between his Ards side and the one he played a record number of games for.

Nixon, who won every domestic trophy multiple times as a player for the Glens, could have been managing the east Belfast outfit this weekend rather than going up against them having been offered the job last season before opting to sign a new contract with Ards.

Ultimately, Ronnie McFall agreed to stay in charge at The Oval, with Kieran Harding remaining as his assistant, while Nixon's ex-team-mates and fellow Glentoran legends Gary Smyth and Paul Leeman joined the management set-up.

Ards and the Glens will enter the Danske Bank Premiership match at Clandeboye Park seeking their first points of the campaign after both lost their opening games of the season.

The Glens were defeated 2-1 in the final minute at home to Cliftonville, while Ards were beaten 4-2 by champions Crusaders in a compelling affair at Seaview.

"There is always a lot of emotion playing against Glentoran because I spent so long there. It's a special game," said Nixon, who was unhappy with some of the refereeing in Monday's loss to the Crues.

"I genuinely believe with the squad we have amassed we can beat anyone in the league, but Glentoran will be a tough game on Saturday.

"They had a defeat in their opening match so they will be gunning for us as well.

"If my players show the level of commitment on show against Crusaders though, we should be okay. I thought we were excellent.

"We were beaten but I can take a lot of positives out of our opening match.

"We went to Seaview with a game plan, and in the first half maybe we lacked that little bit of belief that we could do it.

"I addressed that at half-time and we came out like a house on fire in the second half, scored a great goal to equalise and make it 2-2 at the home of the champions, and we were right in the game.

"Then the decisions started to become a bit odd in my opinion."

There were some fine performances from Ards players at Seaview, not least from two-goal captain Gareth Tommons and livewire Jonny Frazer, whose influence grew as the game wore on.

Defender Johnny Taylor will be back for the clash with the Glens, though promising midfielder Joshua Kelly is suspended after being sent off versus the Crues.

"It's a blow to lose Josh Kelly. He is a young kid, and he is learning and he has loads to give. He's full of energy and he just misjudged a tackle, and now he's going to pay a heavy price," added Nixon.

Elsewhere in the Danske Bank Premiership, there's a cracking match at Seaview where Ballymena United take on Crusaders.

The Crues got their title defence up and running with a 4-2 win over Ards, but the Sky Blues signalled they also mean business by sweeping aside Dungannon Swifts 2-0 at Stangmore Park.

For United boss David Jeffrey it will be an early opportunity to see how his new-look side measures up against the champions.

"They are most impressive - league champions who have strengthened again," said Jeffrey.

"They have a big and healthy squad, while they are taking the bold move of going full-time, which they should be applauded for.

"For us it's a challenge we look forward to.

"I just ask my players to give their best and we will see what our best is against the champions."

Crusaders striker Jordan Owens could be back in the first-team picture after overcoming a hamstring injury.

Boss Stephen Baxter will hope that Owens and his new signing, Rory Patterson, can torture defences this season.

• LOUGHGALL and Portadown shared the spoils on the opening night of the Bluefin Sport Championship in a 1-1 draw at Lakeview Park.

Gary Liggett had fired the hosts into an early lead, but Adam Salley's bullet header in the second half equalised for Matthew Tipton's Ports and ensured the two sides would both take home a point.

Belfast Telegraph

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