MATTHEW Tipton has challenged his Ards side to ‘come out swinging’ as they attempt to put right Tuesday’s defeat at Ballyclare ahead of the visit of Championship leaders Loughgall this weekend.
The Villagers have recorded four wins on the bounce and will arrive at Clandeboye Park having laid down a marker with a win against third placed Warrenpoint Town in mid-week.
Reflecting on the last-minute reverse at Dixon Park, Tipton admitted he must lift his wounded group before Saturday’s test.
“It’s really difficult to accept and the lads are obviously disappointed,” he said.
“I think there have been games where we’ve played really well and got nothing, and others where we have been poor and obviously got nothing. Ballyclare was somewhere in the middle and a draw would have been a fair result.
“I felt there were fouls leading to both the first and third goals,” added the Ards boss.
“They ended up being two really good finishes, and full credit to the two lads, but it’s sickening for the boys because I thought we showed more cutting edge than we have done recently and were good going forward.
“We scored a great goal right at the beginning of the second half and then conceded a sloppy one. Could we have defended better after it? Probably, but the lads are gutted because at 2-2 in the last minute, we’d have probably taken it on the chin and moved forward, whereas instead it’s another defeat and I’ve got to pick them up ahead of Loughgall now,” he continued.
“It’s a sucker punch in the 90th minute, from a long ball up the pitch and then I think a blatant foul.
“I will lift them because there’s no use crying about these things. This is football and you’ve got to get back out there.
“Ballyclare were probably more direct than we were, but why would I sacrifice what we’ve worked on for a year now?
“We’ve never backed down from a challenge. There are two ways to look at this – you could lie down and think ‘we’re on a bad run’, or you come out swinging. And I think we’re a better team when we come out swinging.”
Tipton rang the changes for Tuesday night’s fixture – four in all – with Salou Jallow, Ross Arthurs, Ben Mullen and DeeDee McAllister coming into the side. For McAllister, it was a welcome return to action following a lengthy lay-off with injury.
“DeeDee and Salou are two out and out wingers and that’s something that I have wanted to play with,” said Tipton.
“If you’re playing one winger, you need to play two for balance, so we have needed both of them to be fit.
“When the opportunity arose for DeeDee to play, particularly on a grass pitch because his ankle can flare up on the 3G, we wanted to get both of them in.
“We caused them problems in the wide areas, so in certain areas, we were justified in our selections,” he added.
“We felt that there wouldn’t be too much play through the middle of the pitch which I suppose rang true, but we did then lose out defensively because Ballyclare were quite direct and were getting runners beyond.
“Greg Hall coming off at half-time was unfortunate and Karl Hamill was still sore from a bad tackle that he received on Saturday but in saying that, I thought TJ Muray did really well in centre-half.
“I don’t think anybody that was here [on Tuesday] could say that we played badly. I think they would say that we tried to do the right thing, but conceded poor goals.
“The crazy thing is that in the last two games, we’ve limited the opposition to very little and two mistakes cost us, whereas in this game, Alex Moore made numerous saves and yet we’ve still conceded three,” he continued.
“We have to get back to what we were doing eight or so weeks ago when we had a really good balance. I want us to play attacking football but we can’t have that to the detriment of what we’re doing the other way.”
Still without a win since December 10, objectively, Saturday’s clash against Loughgall has the look of a daunting task for Tipton and Ards. But he has stressed that playing Dean Smith’s team could help to ‘focus the minds’ of his side.
“We’ve had a terrible start to the new year,” conceded the former Portadown ace.
“Loughgall have had more or less the same squad for about four years now. We’re a year in and have had two transfer windows, which isn’t me deflecting in any fashion, but they are ahead of us in their progression and we have to make sure that we compete with them on Saturday.
“We know that they are quick, pacey and like to get balls into the box. We have to combat that and certainly defend better than tonight [Tuesday].
“Maybe, the thought of playing them might help focus the players’ minds because I certainly never question their physical output, but sometimes we can mentally switch off and you need mentally strong characters in football.”