Robert Hastings believes Bangor’s season is now back on track.
After a disappointing opening sequence of results, the Seasiders are slowly getting to grips with their NIBA Division One title defence. They are also progressing nicely in the IBA Senior Cup.
However, any premature thoughts of picking up the game’s top knockout prize will be severely scrutinised on Saturday when in-form Provincial side, Portrush, leave a calling card at Ward Park in one of the top third round ties.
“It will be a big test,” said Ireland international Hastings. “We had a poor start to our league campaign. In fact, were were one off the bottom of the table at one time.
“But we have regrouped and put together a good run of results which has helped us claw back to the tails of the top three. We are now unbeaten in six games.
“We are still a long way off as Whitehead are 11-and-a-half points clear of us. In saying that, we have a game in hand, against Balmoral. That match is scheduled for next Thursday night . . . we also play Divis on the Tuesday before that.
“It was always going to be a big ask over the opening weeks of the season as we were without three key players. Simon Martin left us to join Belmont, while Graham McKee and Mark Bailie were suspended. But we are now back to a full quota.”
Hastings agrees that Portrush will provide stern opposition, with an IBA Senior Cup quarter final slot up for grabs.
“They have been going well by all accounts,” he adds. “Portrush have some top players in the form of Ian McClure, Gary McCloy, Simon Colvin and Jackie Smyth.
“We haven’t met them in the cup for some time. My last memory was beating them up at their place seven or eight years ago. But we have home advantage, so we must make that count. We know we must be at our best if we are to get a result.”
Hastings’ son Matthew misses out on Saturday due to holidays arrangements, but Aaron Patterson, who hasn’t played a lot of bowls due to work commitments, is available.
There are a number of other intriguing ties down for decision, with Belmont, the Irish Cup specialists, rolling out the welcome mat for Cookstown.
The Belfast boys have carved out their own little piece of history in the tournament, being the only team to have picked up the coveted prize on five successive occasions -- 2003-2007.
However, the have been nudged into the shadows in recent years. With the inclusion of Simon Martin this term, they’ll be confident of taking the scalp of a Provincial side that has been knocking at the door for their first ever cup triumph.
Ballymoney have also had consumed a fair share of heartache in recent years, having suffered two final defeats.
They have already lifted their first silverware of the season by retaining the Provincial Piggott Cup following a runaway win over Limavady in the final last weekend.
But they now face a tricky away day in Dublin against CYM -- the only Bowling League of Ireland side left in the tournament.
IBA Senior Cup, third round: Bangor v Portrush, Belmont v Cookstown, City of Derry v Whitehead, Coleraine v Larne, CYM v Ballymoney, Dromore v Ballymena, Lurgan v Dundonald, Carrick v Dunbarton.
IBA Junior Cup, third round: Ballymoney v Falls, Brookgreen v Lagan Valley, Dunbarton v Cookstown, Forth River v Balmoral, Old Bleach v Dunluce, Portadown v Pickie, Portrush v Kilrea, Ulster Transport v Whitehead.
NI Private Greens League Division One: Pickie v Old Bleach, Ewarts v Ulster Transport.
Division Two: Castleton v Mossley, NICS v Falls, Cliftonville v Hilden, Comber v Forth River, Salisbury v Ballywalter.
Division Three: Ballymena B v Cavehil, Belmont B v Gallaher, Saintfield v Knock, Shaftesbury v Shorts, North Belfast v PSNI.
Division Four: Willowfield B v Larne B, Downpatrick v Belfast.
Division Five: Cavehill B v Albert Foundry, Ards B v Belmont D, Hilden B v Cliftonville B, Mossley B v Ewarts B.
Northern Ireland Bowling Association Division Two: Dungannon v Londonderry Park, Bessbrook v Castle, Sydenham v Curran.
Division Three: St Stephen’s v Cloughey, Ormeau v Clarendon, Lisnagarvey B v Newtownabbey, Carrick B v Musgrave, Rathfriland v Markethill.
Division Four: Banbridge B v Queen’s Island, BETS v Holywood, Annalong v North Down, Finaghy v Ulster Maple Leaf.
Division Five: Newry v 1st Ballymacarrett, Warrenpoint v Antrim, Windsor v Lurgan B, Castle B v Glengormley.
Division Six: Curran B v 9th Old Boys, McQuiston Memorial v Rathfriland B, Gilnahirk v Donaghadee B, 58th Old Boys v Divis B.
NI Provincial Bowling Association Senior League: Letterkenny v Portglenone, Limavady v Coleraine.