Story By: Ulster Gazette Thursday, 24 March 2016
SEVEN months since the start of the new football season, fierce local rivals Loughgall and Armagh City will lock horns for the first time this season.
The Orchard rivals had been due to compete in the Bob Radcliffe Cup final on Boxing Day, but the match was controversially called off by the match day officials and the two teams were left kicking their heels.
This Saturday the two sides will meet at Holm Park and it is an important game for both sides.
Last Saturday, Armagh City failed to build on their recent revival in the league on Saturday afternoon, as they travelled to the Riverside Stadium to take on a resurgent Institute.
The home side ran out 2-0 winners and City were left looking over their shoulders once more, as they try to avoid getting sucked into a relegation scrap or a possible relegation play-off.
The bottom three sides will all receive automatic relegation, while the team in 11th position will face a play-off against the runners-up in the Championship 2.
Loughgall had hoped to go into the derby clash on Saturday with a victory over a relegation threatened Dergview at Lakeview Park, but Richard Clarke’s side produced one of the shock results of the weekend as they left the Orchard County with a 2-0 win.
Goals from Nathan Cashel and former Loughgall hitman Aaron Patterson proved to be the difference between the two sides and Loughgall assistant manager Steven Hawe admitted the Villagers were disappointed with the home defeat.
“We simply didn’t turn up.
“It really was just one of those days but credit to Dergview they battled well and they had a bit of quality at the right times, but to be honest we gave them the two goals.”
Hawe admitted the absence of four key players proved crucial on Saturday.
“Jamie Rea and Aaron Walsh were suspended and Ricky Copeland is still injured, while Warner Mullen is still away in Australia.
“We should have Jamie, Ricky and Aaron back this weekend and we know that we have six or seven games left in the season and we really want to continue to push on in the league and finish in the top four or five.”
Hawe added that a tough winter campaign may have taken its toll on the Villagers on Saturday.
“We had a fair idea that a performance like that would come along at some time.
“The Irish Cup run took a lot out of the boys and we played a lot of games over the winter months and we knew that we would have a dip in form at some stage.”
There has been very little between Loughgall and Armagh City in recent years and Hawe said that they are expecting another close game on Saturday.
“All the derby games against Annagh and Lurgan Celtic have been close this season and there is usually only a goal in the games.
“We will get a good week of training behind us and make sure we are ready for the game on Saturday.”
In other local football news, Armagh City officials have confirmed to the Ulster Gazette that they have received three points from their game with Lisburn Distillery earlier on this season.
The Lisburn side were found to have played an unregistered player in the game in early September and the issue was investigated by an Independent Commission set up by the Northern Ireland Football League.