Danske Bank Premiership
Andy Mitchell insists there is a steely determination among the Larne squad not to ruin Christmas for the club’s supporters.
The Invermen make the short trip along the coast tomorrow to take on derby rivals Carrick Rangers at the Loughshore Leisure Arena.
Having joined the club in the January 2020 transfer window and with last year’s games falling foul of Covid, this is the first opportunity for Mitchell to experience the festive derby for himself and he knows what is at stake.
“The games over Christmas are always big ones,” he says.
“In a sense, you have to be a bit self aware over Christmas and make sure your preparation is spot on with what you eat and drink.
“This is an important game for us after recent results but I feel it’s a big game for the club as a whole.
“Derby games mean a lot to the fans and all the club. You don’t want to be responsible for ruining people’s Christmas and I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that.
“So we know what’s required and we know what the requirements are to get a result.”
After a narrow 1-0 loss to Linfield in the live televised game before Christmas, there has been a break of 10 days for Larne to get ready for this one.
Mitchell is in two minds as to whether that is a help or hindrance, but he insists Larne are itching to get back to winning ways after slipping to fifth in the table.
“When you’re a payer and you’ve had a bad result, you generally want to go out and put it right as soon as possible,” he adds.
“We will have had a bit of a break and maybe after playing with 10 men for an hour against Linfield, that might do us good in the long run.
“It has also meant the schedule isn’t as tightly packed as it normally is Christmas, so it gives you a bit more time with family.
“The one thing I can say is that training has been spot on. The lads are chomping at the bit and the manager has worked as tirelessly as ever so we have to be ready going to Carrick.”
The defeat to Linfield leaves Larne 10 points off the leaders and reigning Champions after a run of just one win in six Premiership games.
Former Blues midfielder Mitchell has been left scratching his head with the recent form, but knows they can only put it right on the field.
“It’s a consistency thing,” he says.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason to it, the lads are working their socks off and we are giving 100 per cent but things haven’t been going for us.
“When you’re striving for what we’re striving for, you can’t have two bad games in a row, so we need to put it right now.
“Carrick are a much-changed team from recent seasons and, credit to Stuart King, they started really well and we know it will be tough game. From our perspective though, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We want and need to get points on the board.”
Mitchell is also hoping to get back into contention after a recent bout of Covid.
“I picked it up a month ago and It really affected me,” he reveals.
“I played my first 90 minutes against Ballyclare and then a reserve game at Linfield which has been a big help.
“Thankfully I’m back and ready and the manager knows I’m 100 per cent ready if called upon.”
Mitchell has also been instrumental in helping establish the new PFA in Northern Ireland and feels it will be vital for players in the Irish League.
“Michael Carvill has been doing a brilliant job with that and I was delighted when he called me,” Mitchell explains.
“It’s something we have been crying out for and I think it will improve standards and make sure that players who are struggling know they have somewhere to turn to.”