Boss says it's game ON as Largs warm to derby duel with Kilbirnie

The wintry elements which are set to severely disrupt tomorrow's card will not impact on the Super First Division game of the day – leaders Largs Thistle hosting neighbours Kilbirnie Ladeside.

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Pat McIlvogue reckons the Largs-Kilbirnie game will go ahead
Pat McIlvogue reckons the Largs-Kilbirnie game will go ahead

That's the prediction of Theesel manager Pat McIlvogue, who is certain his side's game will get the go-ahead on Barrfields Stadium's state-of-the-art 4G playing surface.

Bone hard and icy underfoot conditions have seen clubs throughout the West Region struggle to avail themselves of decent training facilities.

However, McIlvogue has encountered no such problems in putting his players through their paces.

The Largs gaffer said: "We trained on the pitch twice this week and conditions have been nothing short of perfect, so I cannot envisage the game being called off unless there is heavy snow between now and tomorrow.

"Hopefully our sessions will work to our advantage in terms of fitness and because this is shaping up as a crunch derby for both clubs. We want to try and open up a gap on our main challengers at the top, while Kilbirnie will be going all out to promote themselves into the mix after an indifferent start.

"Their results have picked up significantly of late, just as everyone thought they would with so many top-notch and experienced Junior players in their ranks.

"Our team, by contrast, errs towards young up-and-coming players, but what both sides do share is a desire for attacking football and neither of us will be holding anything back tomorrow.

"Largs have been criticised in some quarters for overdoing our passing style of football because it leaves us open to losing goals and we certainly want to tighten up defensively.

"But what cannot be overlooked is that the guys are also banging in their fair share at the other end of the pitch."

McIlvogue's only selection headache is centre-back Barry McLaughlin, who is facing two months out after having three metal plates inserted in a cheekbone injury picked up against Maybole.

He added: "Barry has played well in recent games, so he'll be a big loss, however we are not exactly short of central defenders with Robbie Cochrane, Craig Little and Eddie Walton to call upon.

"Another major plus has been the form of Andy Monaghan, who is back to his best despite the handicap of playing with cracked ribs over the last month.

"He'll definitely start and the only poser is whether to partner him with Euan Lindsay or Kevin Struthers."

Visiting co-boss Stevie Swift was in pragmatic mood when looking ahead to the derby clash.

He said: "Being realistic, Largs are the top dogs right now and, with home advantage, will most probably start as firm favourites.

"But our guys are also playing well themselves, with young Chris Malone outstanding recently and Ryan Smillie emerging as a more than decent goalscorer with 12 goals.

"And confidence was high after stringing together a four-game unbeaten run, so I just hope we can pick up where we left off before the winter set in. A victory sees us move to within four points of Largs with two games in hand, and we'll be giving everything to try and achieve that goal, but it's very difficult to predict how this one will go given both teams are so evenly matched. We both have one win apiece from two meetings early on this season."

In other Super First contests, Glasgow Perthshire are seeking revenge over Maybole, who ran out 2-0 Evening Times Cup last-eight winners when the teams met at the Ladywell Stadium back in May.

Second-top Hurlford look a good bet for the spoils away to bottom markers Whitletts, while third-from-the-foot Renfrew will look to get some upward momentum with a win over fellow-strugglers Ardrossan.

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