Annagh United manager Dean Smith will use cup commitments across the next week to aid long-term league prospects.
United suffered a first defeat of the debut NIFL Championship One campaign on Saturday when Ards manager Niall Currie returned to Tandragee Road and left with three points.
The 3-1 defeat cut short Annagh’s perfect start to the season but left the league table on a tally of nine points from four fixtures.
Smith finished frustrated at the absence of some key players from his panel and is relishing a return to full fitness from a double-figure roster on the sidelines.
Annagh visit Coagh United tomorrow (Saturday) in the Bob Radcliffe Cup. A trip on Tuesday to Mourneview Park will hand Annagh a top-flight test against Glenavon.
“Scott McCordick will have wrapped up his suspension in time for Glenavon, Philip Craig should be available this weekend along with Mark Stewart,” said Smith. “Bryan Pentland may require an operation on his broken foot and both Francis McCann and Paul Stretton remain ruled out, plus Shane Mulgrew.
“However, Peter Mallon and Jordan Campbell have also served bans.
“The cup games over the next two fixtures will be ideal to allow us to improve playing time across the squad.
“It is about helping those called into the side with extra sharpness and those coming back from injury with a fitness boost.
“We have reached the finals of the Bob Radcliffe and Mid-Ulster cups in recent seasons and there is no doubt of the benefits from those runs.
“Going up against opposition from the next level can only bring the group forward and cup results can give confidence to everyone.
“The players used so far have really adapted well and Saturday’s game against Ards offered a learning curve.
“We are delighted with the return of points from the first four games.
“Ards scored goals at circial times, as conceding after four minutes or so then just before half-time changed everything for us.
“A third arrived in the second half before Richard Allen converted our penalty kick.
“I was pleased with the second half and how we battled.
“Ards proved really clinical but we can take so many positives out of the performance.
“With a full-stregth side we could have been more competitive across the full match but it is about learning lessons and moving forward together.
“The cup ties will present a good chance to spread the minutes.”
Kick-off at Coagh will be 2.30, with Annagh’s visit to Glenavon set for a 7.45 start on Tuesday.