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Ballymena edging towards target as the pressure mounts


By Michael Sadlier

After Ballynahinch's dramatic victory at Naas in last weekend's re-arranged game, the pressure has ratcheted up on Ballymena as they are now the ones facing an edgy couple of games.

And that starts for the Braidmen at fourth-placed Naas who will be still smarting at Hinch's late escape while also determined to secure their less than certain top four place.

Now in seventh, the Braidmen are seven points ahead of Galwegians - who are ninth and in the relegation play-off spot - and go to Naas knowing victory will secure their place in the division.

"To be certain we need the win and we're going there to try and get that win," said Ballymena coach Andy Graham.

"We haven't been far away," he added of Ballymena's recent poor form. "We were close to beating UCC (at home last time out) and we started well in that game.

"But it was our own errors that let them into it and that has been the case in a lot of these games. There is probably a lack of confidence as we haven't been winning as much as usual so we need to go out and regain that self-belief."

Dave Shanahan, Conal Boomer and Adam McBurney are the only Ulster releases available to Graham - regulars Mark Best, Matty Rea and Stephen Mulholland are injured - while Ritchie McMaster's playmaking at out-half will be crucial.

Hinch entertain second-placed UL Bohemians at Ballymacarn Park, the visitors battling against Old Wesley to secure a home play-off semi-final.

Hinch are two points short of safety and will throw everything at this rather than have to dig something out from Buccaneers - who are already champions and promoted - next weekend.

Hinch should have something close to the same side which won at Naas with Peter Nelson and David Busby likely to feature.

"If we get two wins now we could finish fifth and nearly even fourth," said Hinch head coach Derek Suffern.

Div 1B: Ballynahinch v UL Bohs, Naas v Ballymena, Shannon v Buccaneers, UCC v Galwegians, Dolphin v Old Wesley (Sun)

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