League survival still the main goal but Smith’s Annagh squad up for the cup

Philip Craig (left) battling to keep Annagh United on course against Dollingstown at Tandragee Road.INPT50-601AM
Philip Craig (left) battling to keep Annagh United on course against Dollingstown at Tandragee Road.INPT50-601AM

Survival remains the long-term priority in Annagh United’s debut campaign within Irish League second-tier football but cup commitments could take centre-stage across the closing weeks of 2015.

Derby delight in dismal weather conditions last weekend helped Annagh see off Dollingstown and progress into Tuesday’s Irish Cup fifth-round draw.

A trip to the winners of tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) tie between Knockbreda or Lisburn Distillery will serve up a New Year knockout test on January 9.

Annagh’s immediate focus will turn to a NIFL Championship One fixture list up in the air due to the multiple permutations.

The Intermediate Cup visit to Dergview was confirmed this week as the weekend priority over Annagh’s previously scheduled league test against Lurgan Celtic.

However, with weather conditions putting the Dergview venue at risk and Lurgan Celtic set to host Linfield Swifts across the same competition on Saturday it could hand Annagh a blank date.

The potential of Annagh and Lurgan Celtic lining out in pursuit of league points on December 19 will be dictated by Dergview’s schedule, with the Intermediate Cup match expected to claim next Saturday’s slot if weather leads to a postponement this weekend.

One option would be a midweek cup date but, ultimately, Annagh may not return to league play until January 2 away to Armagh City.

“All we can do is train as normal then deal with the situation as it develops,” said Dean Smith, the Annagh United manager. “The goal is to put as many league points on the board as required for survival as quickly as possible.

“However, at the minute it is about cup ties and last weekend’s win over Dollingstown was all about the result over the performance.

“The weather was as bad as anything I can recall so, more than ever, it came down to the final score and getting into the next round.

“It was about winning the physical battle and coping with the tough weather conditions.

“Dollingstown lost a player after about 20 minutes so that handed us an advantage, although I felt they kept the shape well.

“It was very hard playing into the wind across the first half and that restricted our ability to create chances.

“In the second half we produced a professional performance to get the win and set up the fifth-round tie with either Knockbreda or Distillery.

“In an ideal situation, you always want home advantage in the cup but we will look forward to January.”

Jaime Gardiner provided a pass for Scott McCordick to break the deadlock then was on hand to double the lead by converting a Francis McCann cross in the 2-1 win.

Smith rolled back the years against Dollingstown by swapping his spot in the dug-out for a position in the starting side.

“We had a few late enforced changes so I decided to play,” said Smith. “I register at the start of every season and have been training but it is not something I would want to consider as a regular option.

“However, it was nice to get back out playing but, more importantly, we got the win.”

The manager’s son - Jamie - and brother - Andy - were listed on the substitutes’ bench.

ANNAGH UNITED: Marc Robinson, Stephen Acheson, Bryan Pentland, Jordan Campbell, Richard Allen, Philip Craig, Francis McCann, Scott Rae, Scott McCrodick, Dean Smith, Jaime Gardiner. Subs: Raymond Harpur, Jamie Smith, Chris McElroy, Andy Smith.