TODAY’S match against Limavady United is Larne’s most important game of the season, according to assistant-manager Sammy Smith. Three points from the trip to the north-west could even be enough to steer the Invermen clear of the relegation dogfight, which is currently enveloping six clubs.
“We didn’t expect to be still in the mire at the foot of the table, because we are good enough to be higher up the table. The players are good enough, they are putting in enough effort and their performances are good enough. So we should be clear of danger. But the one ingredient over which we don’t have any control has been our problem – the rub of the green,” insists Smith.
“We should have won several games and the only reason we didn’t was because Lady Luck didn’t smile on us. But we are still battling away and I am sure our luck will change.
“But a win this weekend would go a long way to ensuring our safety. The one thing we don’t want to be doing on May 4 is getting up at 8.30am to head away to Castlederg for the final match in the league, worrying about the result because our fate is still not determined.
“It’s ridiculous that we should be facing such a long and tiresome journey anyway for a 12 noon start, but apparently that’s how it is going to be – because it’s the same day as the Irish Cup Final. However, if we are out of the trouble zone, it won’t be so taxing.
“On Tuesday we are at home against Institute and that will be another tough contest, but we are not even thinking about what might be in store there until we get the Limavady match over us,” added Smith, who feels they should have got something from last weekend’s home clash against champions-elect Ards.
“They were very good in the first half and we were very poor. They should have been two or three goals ahead at least. Chris Keenan and the defenders were definitely responsible for keeping the scoresheet blank at half time; the goalkeeper made at least four superb saves.
“We talked about making changes for the second half but decided to give it 10 minutes or so, because the two players we wanted to put on – Gary Workman and Sencer Yilmaz – were both still not clear of injury and ideally we wouldn’t have been using them at all.
“But Ards scored after three minutes and again a few minutes further on, so we decided we had to risk the two players if we were to have a chance of salvaging something from the match, which we definitely believed we could do.
“As it turned out, we pulled a goal back and, but for the refusal of what I thought was a stonewall penalty kick, we really would have. Having not been at the races up to the changes, we suddenly started to play a bit of football and Ards were really worried.
“Lee Thompson was causing all sorts of trouble and he went through on goal and was hauled down, the offender getting away with a yellow card when, for me, it should certainly have been red.
“Then Yilmaz headed the ball down and Lee knocked it into the net and it was really game on.” Smith said Larne were “clearly the better team” in the last half hour and should have drawn level had the penalty been awarded.
He added: “Even the Ards officials said after the match that it was ‘squeaky bum time’ for them for the last 20 minutes and more. They admitted that we played well enough to get maybe a point anway.
“I believe that the wee rub of the green is all that is missing from our game at the minute, and I think we are bound to get a bit of luck sooner rather than later.”
Report by Kevin Hughes