Ards’ Naomi Elliott inspired by evergreen Tamara McLeod

Ards captain Naomi Elliott
Ards captain Naomi Elliott

Ards captain Naomi Elliott has paid tribute to veteran midfielder Tamara McLeod ahead of Saturday’s crucial Premier League top of the table clash with Pegasus at the Co Down venue.

McLeod, formerly Tamara Stronge, played for Ireland at the 1994 World Cup which was hosted in Dublin.

She turned the clock back with a superb display in Ards’ 3-1 Ulster Shield final win over Pegasus and the club will be hoping for a repeat performance on Saturday.

“Tamara was a terrific positive influence before the Shield game when she used all her experience to chat to the girls and calm us down ahead of the big occasion,” said Elliott.

“She had a superb game and set up the corner that led to the first goal, scored the second and set up the third.

“Tamara has been part of the fabric of the club for many years and she was also a great influence on me when I was one of the younger players.”

McLeod’s influence is likely to be of vital importance as well as Ards are without striker Chloe Brown, who is on Ireland duty in Spain.

Vanessa Surgeoner will be missing from the Pegasus line-up for the same reason, but with 21 goals already this season Brown’s absence could be more keenly felt.

Add into the equation that Ards are the form team of the moment and indeed the season and we could have a real classic on our hands.

The Ards captain has admitted she would gladly settle for a draw tomorrow which would see her team maintain a four-point advantage at the top though Pegasus have a game in hand.

“You don’t go out looking for a draw as you play to win but it wouldn’t be a bad result for us if that’s how it finished,” Elliott added.

“If anything Saturday’s game is even bigger for us than the Shield final and both teams will have a point to prove.

“They are a super team and we have a lot of respect for them but the final wasn’t a typical Ards-Pegasus match as it was a good game of hockey.

“Normally they are tension laden affairs and often a bit feisty because of what’s at stake so I expect Saturday’s game to be a bit more like the norm.”

Pegasus will be looking for an improved performance after trailing Lisnagarvey for 55 minutes at the weekend before two late goals gave them a 2-1 win.