IRISH LEAGUE: Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin looking to cause ‘upset’ at Solitude

Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin (right) is looking forward to tomorrows clash with Cliftonville
Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin (right) is looking forward to tomorrows clash with Cliftonville

Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin expects a titanic tussle at Solitude on Saturday afternoon as the Sky Blues face Cliftonville in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Both sides have been in a great run of form of late - with United unbeaten in their last six - and Ervin believes a good match is on the cards when the two rivals meet.

“In this league any team can beat another on any given day. Both of us are in good form and it should be a good game.

“And if you look at the matches this weekend - Glenavon versus Linfield, Coleraine against Crusaders and our game - those are great games.

“It should be a good weekend of football and those are all great games.”

And Ervin says they will go to Solitude looking to get their hands on three league points.

“We are in good form and we are confident that we can cause an ‘upset’ - because that is what people will call it if we beat them at their place.

“We are also in good spirits and we want to go there and get a result.

“It will be tough as they are a good side - but we have beaten them 1-0 already this season and we will be looking a positive result when we go down there.

“They are a good side, hard to beat on their own patch and they are in good form as well - so it should be a good game.”

And the former Linfield defender says he has no fears of facing the Reds potent strike force - who have found a bit of form in recent weeks.

“As a footballer you want to play against the best players and they have some talented strikers.

“But they are a good side from back to front but we are looking forward to the challenge.

“We will be looking to keep a clean sheet and that has what we have been working on in training.

“It is up to us to nullify their forwards and that is what we are aiming for.”

And Ervin says it is good to have Johney McMurray back after injury.

“He brings something to the team and he has been in great form since he got back.

“He will also be looking to go back to Solitude and show them what they are missing.

“It’s good to have him back on board after injury.”

And Cliftonville manager Barry Gray is glad that the Reds supporters have stuck by the team after their rocky start to the season.

The Reds - by their high standards - made a slow start this season but in recent weeks they have come flying back and are now fourth in the league standings before they face United at Solitude.

And Gray says he has appreciated the backing he has received from the Reds faithful

“They have been fantastic. When things don’t go as well as you expect, you have to be respectful to them

“When they pay their money to get in the gate and they expect to see a product and when they don’t they are frustrated just like the rest if us.

“And I have said in some of my interviews post games that when they decide to rock Solitude it is a very daunting experience for a visiting team.

“And they are such a motivational factor for me, the staff and the players involved in the game.

“And I have received great support since joining Cliftonville - even in the hard times - huge, huge support across the board.”

And after their recent run of good results Gray says that there is still work to be done before Cliftonville are the finished article.

“Expectations are very high and when you are going through a transitional period it can take you a week or six months.

“There is no magic wand, there is no easy solution to it, but thankfully we are on the other side of it now or what appears to be the other side of it and that is where we want to stay.”

And the Reds boss believes his side - if they keep moving in the right direction - could be in the mix for honours come the end of the season.

“I said when we went in at Cliftonville that we have to be challenging for every competition that we enter.

“And at this moment in time the table would suggest - if we can maintain our currant form - why not?”

And Gray was pleased with his side’s display against Ards last weekend when they saw off their rivals 1-0.

“I keep saying we’re not going to get everything our own way,” he explained.

“It wasn’t pretty at times but I’m delighted with how we defended.

“In August or September, it’s doubtful we would have been able to protect a 1-0 lead for over an hour, but we did it without allowing Ards too many chances.

“Our defence got a lot of criticism at the start of the season but, in recent weeks, they have been superb. It wasn’t just the back four, it was the entire team who defended well.

“We have three points on the board and that’s what really matter,” he added.