Paul Kee will be hoping Institute’s former servants don’t come back to haunt the club tomorrow afternoon as four familiar faces return, intent on de-railing the Waterside men’s promotion aspirations.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Carrick Rangers team bus will roll into Drumahoe tomorrow for a crunch Irish Championship One clash against Kee’s men with FOUR former representatives of the club on board. (Kick-off 3 p.m.)
Ex-’Stute favourites, Sean Friars, Adam Clarke, Dean Carlyle and Neil Harkin will all represent the East Antrim club as they attempt to put a serious dent in Kee’s bid for second place.
Their presence will no doubt add an extra bit of spice to what should arleady be a competitive encounter as Carrick themselves are still, mathematically, in contention for a promotion spot.
And one of the ‘Stute ‘old boys’ to make his first return to the Riverside since his January Transfer Deadline switch to Michael Hughes’ team is Top of the Hill man, Neil Harkin.
The 24 year-old midfielder decided to find employment elsewhere after falling down the ‘Stute pecking order following the return of Aaron Walsh from a spell on the sidelines.
Therefore he’s anxious to make an impression when returning to his old stomping ground and he feels Carrick, following their midweek 0-6 demolition of Larne at Inver Park, have the ability to shock their hosts and reinforce their status as promotion contenders.
“There will be a bit of tension I’m sure,” said Harkin last night. “There’s four of us ex-’Stute boys going back; myself, Adam Clarke, Sean Friars and Dean Carlyle so there might be a bit of an extra edge to the game.
“It should be a good, tight match because Carrick are on a bit of a run at the minute,” he added. “The form has been good but I’ve played with ‘Stute and I know exactly what they’re like.
“If we can go into Saturday’s game and show the same kind of form we’ve been showing lately then we have a great chance of winning the game.”
Carrick are currently 10 points behind Institute but they have three games in hand and simply can’t afford to lose further ground on the Waterside club.
Institute are hot on the heels of second placed, Dundela therefore the stakes are high for both sides.
And Harkin admits that Carrick haven’t given up hope of pipping ‘Stute to that second spot.
“If all goes well and we keep winning matches then we are still in with a chance of getting that second place and a chance of promotion.
“If we were to lose to ‘Stute on Saturday then that probably would end our chances in fairness.
“Institute are in a great position. The result on Saturday will tell it all. I get the feeling we will do well and go on a bit of a run and you never what will happen then.
“But this is a massive game for both sides and so it could make the game a tight one.
“In fact I think it will be too tight to call on Saturday. Carrick have signed some very good players, mostly from the Irish Premiership so it will be a tough encounter for ‘Stute. I’m looking forward to the match so hopefully I get a chance to play.”
Harkin - who is contracted with the ‘Gers’ until the end of the current campaign - has been finding the commute to training sessions at Taylor’s Avenue an arduous one.However, he admits it has been made that bit easier in the company of 33 year-old midfielder, Sean Friars who has been in superb form for Carrick in recent weeks.
“Usually Sean (Friars) and Dean (Carlyle) drive up to training because I don’t drive so it’s normally a bit of a nightmare getting to training, between travelling and with work commitments as well.
“It normally takes a good hour-and-a-half to get up there, maybe a bit longer at times. I like it up in Carrick but sometimes it gets a bit tough travelling up all the time.
“It’s a bit easier having people like Sean about. He’s got loads of experience and he’s playing brilliant at the minute.
“He’s a good lad to have in the changing room. He takes the younger lads under his wing and gets his point across and gives them a bit of advice. So I’m glad to have him about.”
Kee weary of threat
‘Stute boss, Kee is weary of the threat of the former ‘Stute contingent and he feels they will come with a point to prove.
“They (Friars and Carlyle) unfortunately decided that their futures lay elsewhere, granted Neil maybe felt that he would get a better opportunity to play at Carrick.
“Dean was in and out of the team and he was looking for regular football and in fairness to him Carrick have probably given him an opportunity to play and he has taken it so I’m sure the two of them will want to come back and give a good account of themselves,” said Kee.
Institute welcome back John Curran from suspension, however Warner Mullan is expected to miss the game through injury.