Harbinson asks Ballyclare fans to ‘keep the faith’ after semi-final defeat

Ballyclare Comrades manager Paul Harbinson has called on the Dixon Park club’s supporters to “keep the faith” after a run of poor results, including last night’s heavy defeat to derby rivals Larne in the semi-final of the ToalsBet.com County Antrim Shield.

The Lough 41 NIFL Championship side fell to an 8-0 loss as Larne cruised into next year’s showpiece tie with Linfield.

Harbinson’s team, who had a chance of reaching the top of the league table in October, now find themselves in seventh place after only picking up two points from their last seven games.

Speaking to the Times, Paul said: “We find ourselves in a rut of poor form and with a lot of players struggling to regain their confidence despite reminders of those good performances earlier in the year.

Paul Harbinson. (Pic: Ballyclare Comrades Media team).

Football is a fickle and cruel game at times and I think we find ourselves almost victims of our successful performances at the start of the year. Now that we’ve hit the trough of the wave, its all too easy to forget how well we were doing and what we’re capable of. Our agenda now is to get ourselves dusted down and focus on what we do well together as a unit.”

Larne were ruthless in front of goal last night, scoring three in the first half before a dominant display in the second half produced five more unanswered goals.

Commenting on the “gulf” between the two sides, Harbinson continued: “We have learned a harsh lesson from the Larne game that there is an ever increasing gulf between ourselves and the full-time professionals.

“The Crusaders game in the previous round simply tells us that cup football is unpredictable and in one game, anyone can perform. The key to being involved at the top level is being able to reproduce that sort of performance every week.”

The Comrades, who are seven points off the play-off spot, face a tough trip to ninth-placed Dergview on Saturday (3pm), but a number of key players will be in contention for the match in Castlederg.

The former Harland and Wolff Welders player explained: “There have been a number of injuries and illnesses in the last few weeks.

“Unfortunately, Andy Mooney is still unavailable but Howard Beverland, Lee McCune and Eoghan Devine should all come back into contention for the game.

“As I’ve mentioned previously, we have spent considerable time looking at video and reminding the players of what they were doing very well at the start of the season. We now need to realise the need for rolling the sleeves up and doing the nasty work first in this very competitive league.”

The Ballyclare fans travelled to Inver Park on Tuesday in good numbers, despite the tail end of Storm Barra and the lure of televised Champions League football.

Issuing a direct appeal to the Dixon Park faithful, Harbinson said: “We are eternally grateful to all of the fans who continue to show their support and I would urge them to keep on showing the players that they are behind them.

“The players have been hurting badly this last few weeks and last night really compounds that deflation in confidence. It’s at a time like this that everyone needs to pull together and we really get to feel the weight of positive community within this fantastic football club.

“I urge all who feel the exact same pain as we do, keep the faith. This is a long term development process that will have many more positives and negatives. Only together can we weather the storms and reach our end goal.”

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