Squad strength at heart of Loughgall top-six drive for Dean Smith

Loughgall manager Dean Smith.
Loughgall manager Dean Smith.

Dean Smith is counting on summer strength to lead to end-of-season success for Loughgall.

The Villagers’ transfer business has been designed to offer solutions this season to problems identified last season as Loughgall failed to secure a coveted top-six Bluefin Sport Championship finish.

Familiar faces have returned to Lakeview Park within the pre-season negotiations to aid Smith’s search for consistency and, ultimately, points.

Ricky Copeland, Jamie Douglas and Dale Malone have each previously spent time in Loughgall blue - with Lee Upton, Conor Kerr, Fran Brennan, Finton Coney and Jordan Lyttle also on board.

“It was disappointing to miss out on the top six last season and, as a result, have a run of games with little on offer,” said Smith. “Changes to the league structure should help avoid that scenario this season as the top-six split takes place much later in the season.

“Last season we suffered as the split happened in the middle of the January transfer window and, at that point, it impacts on moves by clubs.

“Players don’t want to move to a club that could finish outside the top six and clubs don’t want to commit financially to too many players without knowing how the season will end.

“We are pleased with our business to date and the completion of the Lakeview Meadows 3G complex is a wonderful addition to what we can offer signings as a club, on top of the personal trainer and gym access.

“Overall, however, we finished aware that squad depth cost us points and, significantly, we had to strengthen at the back.

“That was a focus of our summer signings as too often we conceded disappointing goals.

“Up top, scoring goals was not a problem for us so if we can tighten up at the back that will prove a big help towards our overall ambitions.”

Loughgall open the campaign with the visit of derby rivals Portadown to Lakeview Park tomorrow (Saturday) from 3 o’clock.

“Portadown have had the voodoo sign over us so, irrespective of the derby aspect, there is motivation for our players to stop that run of poor results,” said Smith. “It comes as an internal marker for us and every team also goes into the opening weekend searching for the right start.”