Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson claims places on cup final team still up for grabs

Mark Surgenor (centre) will miss Ballymena's game against Portadown
Mark Surgenor (centre) will miss Ballymena's game against Portadown

Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson insists places are still up for grabs for next week’s Wasp Solutions League Cup final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

It means that everyone will be under scrutiny in Saturday’s Premiership clash when the Sky Blues make the journey to Shamrock Park to face Portadown.

United’s hopes of claiming a place in the top six have taken a battering in recent weeks.

They currently linger in eighth spot, five points adrift of rivals Coleraine and eight behind Glenavon, who occupy that sixth position.

“It’s important to pick up as many points as we can,” said Ferguson.

“A top six place looks a long way off at the minute, but there is still a lot of football to be played.

“We’ve done well against Portadown this season, but other aspects were a big factor in the results.”

Ferguson has banned all talk of the League Cup final in his dressing room.

“That game will look after itself,” he added.

“We need to take something from this game at Portadown.

“The players won’t be allowed to go through the motions because if that’s the case, they’ll be doing themselves out of a possible place in the starting eleven for the cup final.

“We can start to focus on the Cliftonville game after 5pm on Saturday.”

The Sky Blues are coming off the back of an impressive Irish Cup win over Crumlin Star.

Goals from Darren Boyce (2), Matthew Tipton and debut boy Gary McCutcheon eased United through.

And, in an ironic twist, they must travel to Cliftonville for a sixth round clash on Saturday, February 7.

“We would have liked a home draw, or failing that a game against one of the lower sides.

“But what did we get an away game with the League champions,” he added.

“That’s the luck of the draw. Again, it’s a game that will look after itself when it comes around.”

On the plus side, Ferguson’s injury problems are easing with the return to action of David Cushley and Jim Ervin, who made his first appearance after damaging a cruciate ligament in last season’s Irish Cup final .

“Both got some game time last week and that was a bonus,” he added.

Ferguson will be missing the suspended Mark Surgenor, the legacy of picking up five yellow cards.

He joins long the long term injured Aaron Stewart, Kyle McVey and Gavin Taggart - he returned to light training this week - on the sidelines

Portadown boss Ronnie McFall, whose team lie only two points off the top of the table, is looking for a dramatic improvement in last week’s Irish Cup win against the PSNI.

The Championship Two side took the Ports to extra time before succumbing to a late Chris Casement strike.

“We need to improve, that’s for sure,” said McFall.