Next three games ‘crucial’

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LARNE boss Graham McConnell was disappointed, but not surprised, that Saturday’s big Championship One relegation clash with Bangor was postponed due to a waterlogged Inver Park pitch. His focus now switches to three matches in the space of eight days which could define Larne’s season.

The six-pointer with the Seasiders was called off around 10.30am on Saturday morning. And it confirmed a feeling that McConnell had that the game would have to re-arranged because of the almost constant rain before the weekend. The fixture will now be played on Tuesday, April 9 (7:45pm).

“It was very disappointing because we had been concentrating all our energies towards what was an important game for both teams and we were hoping to capitalise on the momentum from the previous two outings,” McConnell told the Times.

“Our performance and result against Warrenpoint Town [a 3-0 win] had been terrific and the display, if not the result, against The Welders in the game before that had been very impressive as well. So we were up for the challenge and it didn’t happen.”

Despite the lack of action on Saturday, the Inver Park boss is now looking ahead and said the next three matches are of ‘monumental’ importance for second-bottom Larne.

“I have been impressing upon the players how crucial the next three games are. We have a home game against Institute on Saturday, then Carrick Rangers on Tuesday before a trip to Tyrone to take on Dergview.

“It’s a daunting wee programme but I’ve already told the players that, if we can get two wins from those three games, we’ll be well clear of the trouble zone. It’s a very important week in the context of our season. That’s not to suggest that we are targeting two wins from three, because I think we are well capable of beating all of those teams if we produce the same level of performances as in those last two matches.

“I know a look back at our results would probably show that one of our failings has been a lack of consistency, with a great game or two followed by a disappointing one, but now is the time to string a few good games together and I believe we will do that.”

And McConnell is slowly but surely getting players back from the treatment table or returning from other commitments as the club battles to climb the table, starting with Saturday’s head-to-head with ‘Stute and then the small matter of Carrick at Inver.

“Chris Murray is coming through a few family and work commitments, Robbie-Lee Crawford seems to be just about over his injury problems, Brian McClean is back after being away on work duty for two or three weeks and Andrew Dickey, the goalkeeper signed from Bangor, now available as well.

“The immediate focus is on Institute who beat us 2-1 at Drumahoe before I took over as manager. I don’t know that much about them, except that any team with Paul Kee at the helm will be a good footballing outfit.

“And then it will be the East Antrim derby when we welcome Carrick. I know they have made a whole host of signings, like former Derry City player Sean Friars and former QPR man Gary Borrowdale, but we have made a good few changes as well and I am confident we can get the win. It’s always a great derby occasion and the home support will be firmly behind us and can help us get the better of them.

“It will be a special night for those players who switched clubs in January – Sencer Yilmaz, Murray and Crawford – and I am sure they will be a keen to get one over on their old club. Let’s hope there are big crowds on Saturday and Tuesday and that they have plenty to cheer about.”