1st Bangor joint manager Gary McKibbin admits he would be “bitterly disappointed” if his players miss out on promotion into Division 1A, but realises his side have an immense task on their hands to try and turn their dreams into a reality.
The Portaferry Road men are at least fortunate in the regard in that they know what they have to do. A total of 60 points is the target (or at least 59 and a superior goal difference), if they want to overtake currently second-placed Newcastle, who are now 15 points ahead of them, with all their games played. In the meantime, McKibbin’s side have seven games left to make up that deficit.
“It’s probably fair to say our chances of going up are about fifty-fifty at the moment,” admitted the joint boss. “It will be tough for us, with suspensions and that sort of thing, but we can’t be thinking like that - it may sound boring, but we just have to take it one game at the time.
“Of course they are in a good position… they have the points in the bag, but we have to keep trying until the end.
“I will be bitterly disappointed if we don’t do it, but East Belfast will be worthy champions - they have a brilliant record, only losing one and drawing one - and Newcastle are a well organised side with a good young manager.”
McKibbin, who manages the first team along with Mark Knell, believes they have been hampered by their relative success in the cup competitions, and this may even, in a way, have been their greatest obstacle in mounting a serious title challenge this year.
He continued: “The problem is that we got into the fourth round of the Irish Cup, the quarter-finals of the Border Cup and the latter stages of the Clarence Cup too - it leaves you playing catch-up with your league games.”
However, there is every reason to feel that, regardless of whatever happens, 1st Bangor are a club moving in the right direction.
In the few seasons that McKibbin and Knell have been in charge, the club have been relegated down to Division 1C and gained promotion in the following campaign, with a genuine chance of stepping up to 1A two seasons later.
Though, as McKibben explains, it hasn’t exactly been a straightforward journey to this point.
“I think 1st Bangor was always a very social club, but when we came in, we told the boys that they had to train to play. We were surprised by their reaction.”
One by one, players left towards the end of the summer, and the managerial pair were left with a squad that bore no resemblance to the one they had taken over.
“I suppose it was a blessing in disguise,” reflected McKibbin, “but we did have to make quite a few changes. Now we only have one player remaining from that side - Christopher Scott, our chairman, who also plays centre forward for us.
“Our aim when we took over was to get this club back into the Premier Division, and hopefully, bit by bit, we are moving in that direction.”
If they can just finish the season off with a welcome winning run, they may yet get there that little bit quicker.