Ballyclare Comrades’ interim boss Stephen Hughes got off to a dream start after taking over at the helm at Dixon Park following the shock departure of David Dorrian.
The Reds started as odds-on favourites against Carrick Rangers Reserves and duly delivered with a 4-0 whitewash in the IFA Intermediate Cup, so Hughes goes into the Christmas break full of confidence, and admits that he can’t wait for his first Championship 1 encounter.
For Saturday’s Cup tie he enlisted the support of former manager Eddie Hill, who brought his considerable experience as a player and boss to the dugout.
“Eddie and I worked on a few things in the Tuesday and Thursday training sessions and we impressed upon the players that we wanted them to play with smiles on their faces,” said Hughes.
“I received assurances from all the players that they are committed to Ballyclare, so I don’t envisage any of them leaving during the January transfer window, so that is a good start.
“As Youth Development Officer at the club for several years I have been keeping an eye on talent on the conveyor belt and I hope that some of the lads from the Reserves will make the breakthrough into the senior side, but nevertheless I still will be on the lookout to strengthen the squad if the opportunity arises.”
Asked about the decision to opt for a 4-3-1-2 formation he said: “I felt that I wanted to try something different and with Michael O’Hanlon having turned in some excellent displays down the left wing this season, and having played in the hole with Crusaders, I felt that he was the man to slot in behind strikers Chris Trussell and Randal Reid and he certainly lived up to expectations. He came up with three assists which was a super afternoon’s contribution.”
During the match Hughes used all three permitted substitutes, but confirmed that none of the players he brought off were injured. “I wanted to give as many as possible game time, and Curtis Dempster proved that he had not lost any of his sharpness in front of goal during his three months on the sidelines through injury by coming on to coolly flick the ball over the keeper for the final goal,” he added.
Stephen Hughes managed Ballyclare’s Reserves for two years and won the Ballymena Junior Division 1 title in 2013-14. They finished runners-up to Antrim Rovers the following season.