Loughgall joint manager Steven Hawe is refusing to allow Tuesday’s Mid-Ulster Cup semi-final disappointment to derail January progress on multiple fronts.
The Villagers’ first derby date of the campaign against Armagh City was settled by former Loughgall striker Shea Campbell in the final moments.
The 2-1 defeat arrived after Daniel Ryan produced the first goal of the night at Holm Park. City hit back as Loughgall experienced the highs and lows connected to cup football across the space of four days.
Saturday’s 5-2 success in the Irish Cup over Larne secured a winning start to a sequence of games that Hawe considers will shape the second half of the season.
“We told the lads before the Larne match how this is now entering a big period of fixtures,” said Hawe. “It was great to get the Larne win and we were excellent by getting the basics right.
“The Armagh result was a disappointment with a cup final at place but, given the lack of competitive games around the Christmas period, we will benefit at least from another fixture under our belts.
“It was a tight semi-final and our first chance to get a look at Armagh before we have league games and the Bob Radcliffe Cup final down the line.
“In terms of the league, we have two massive games coming up, starting this weekend at home to Ballyclare Comrades before next Saturday’s visit to Lisburn Distillery.
“We just want to keep on plugging away and developing as a group.”
The commitment to player development in place under the joint management team of Hawe and Stephen Uprichard has yielded rewards to date.
“I know Nicky Hudson and he was at Sheffield Wednesday as a younger lad then on the books at Crusaders reserves but has suffered injury problems,” said Hawe. “We got him in over pre-season and he has been superb.
“Stuart Mallen is another to really push on, along with two players in from the Mid-Ulster Football League in Mark Dane and John Uprichard.
“We are still looking to add to the squad and the signing of Andrew Drylie from Glenavon for the rest of the season will hopefully help the player gain experience and the club get another exciting young talent.”
Kick-off tomorrow (Saturday) will be 2 o’clock.