As the race for the Irish Championship title reaches a climax, Institute boss, Paul Kee, claims the huge efforts from his players are beginning to take its toll.
The Drumahoe club fought until the death last Saturday on a difficult pitch at Lakeview Park where Aaron Walsh’s 94th minute strike secured a share of the spoils against Loughgall.
Influential midfielder, Michael McCrudden was substituted as a precaution after the interval as was Darren McCauley as both players tweaked their ongoing hamstring injuries.
With just six league games remaining and ‘Stute two points off top spot with a game in hand over leaders Carrick Rangers, Kee can’t afford to lose players of that quality for the final run-in.
Therefore, the Drumahoe man has decided to freshen up his squad for tomorrow’s visit of Ballyclare Comrades.
“The games have caught up with us,” said Kee. “We might have to do some recovery sessions to get the players fresh again.
“It’s amazing that we have a lot of hamstring and groin injuries in the squad at the minute. We have been training quite extensively on a 3G surface at the Vale Centre so maybe that’s got a bit to do with it.
“We gave them Monday night off and we’ll train on the grass tonight (last night) and hopefully we’ll have everybody raring to go for Saturday.
“It’s about big game management at this stage of the season. The players made a big effort to get back into the game last week against Loughgall.
“I would say we will probably be involved in a few more games like this in between now and the end of the season.
“Particularly against teams like the Welders who are formidable opponents at home and the likes of Donegal Celtic as well.”
Expected to win
Tomorrow’s opponents Ballyclare will provide a tough test but it’s a fixture ‘Stute will be expected to win.
Kee (pictured right) is expected to give some of the fringe players an opportunity to impress and after last week’s performances, both Robbie Hume and Stephen Curry will be expected to start the game.
“At this stage of the season, it’s just keeping the freshness in the team,” said Kee. “We have to try and avoid injuries and keeping players free from suspension. We also need to keep our heads and keeping everything settled. Ballyclare lost on Saturday to Lisburn Distillery, which was a bit of a surprise because their home form is very good since they have come into the Championship. It will be a difficult game because they have some effective players, and they beat us comfortably 5-1 up there. To be honest, they could have beaten us by more that day.
“The players will be aware of their capabilities, and I’m sure they will be determined to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. There’s always been that team in the last couple of years who have made that break and I wanted that team to be us.
“There are six matches left and that’s 18 points, so we have to try and accumulate as many of those points as we can.”