Ballyclare boss Eddie Hill could be without the services of top marksman Chris Trussell for Saturday’s Championship 1 curtain-raiser against Larne.
Hill, who feels his side are heading in the right direction after a positive pre-season, said the striker, who has scored 48 goals in 49 appearances for the Comrades is facing a race against time to be fit.
“He is a major doubt for this one,” said Hill. “He clashed with reserve goalkeeper Jonah Nicholl in training, and had to have his ribs X-rayed, so it’s a matter of wait and see.
“I have been monitoring the players during the friendlies and I know what my first-choice team would be, but already suspensions and injuries have entered the equation.”
However, Hill has been lifted by Denver Gage’s decision to re-join the Comrades, despite being linked with a move a return to Ballymena United.
“We now have a big squad, with cover throughout the team and re-signing Gage on Saturday is a big boost; he will tighten up the defence.
“On the down side, we have parted company with George Young and Ryan Dunlop, while we have three suspended. Simon McGowan, Andrew Simpson and Jonny McClurg will all miss the Larne game.”
And Hill has warned against complacency ahead of the visit to Inver Park. “We bossed them last season, but Davy McAlinden will now have his stamp on the squad. He has signed quality players and I believe Larne will be one to watch this season, so points will be hard to get there.”
Handed a tough start to the campaign, Ballyclare will be aiming to hit the ground running ground running in Saturday’s derby.
The clash against Larne will be followed by a midweek home League Cup tie with Limavady United on Tuesday (August 12), before heading off to Belfast for a Steel & Sons Cup first-round tie against PSNI on August 16, not forgetting an away league fixture in Loughgall a week later.
They won’t come any tougher than the opening league fixture at Inver Park, where Davy McAlinden’s side will be going all out to erase the memories of last season’s derby drubbings.
Three times the Inver Reds were turned over by Eddie Hill’s lads: twice in Championship 1 (4-0 and 1-0) as well as being knocked out of the Irish Cup (4-1).
n More Ballyclare Comrades coverage in page 21.