Unbeaten Brantwood will be eager to maintain their title push away to Magherafelt Sky Blues at Spires Park this weekend.
The Blues ended up narrow losers in an Irish Cup tie after extra time a few weeks ago and will be eager to get quick retribution for that loss but this is going to be a close clash again.
It has not been the most productive of campaigns as yet for the Blues, but they did put back to back wins together at Sofia Farmer and Dunloy before crashing out of the Crawford Cup at local rivals Desertmartin.
The Blues know they must be at their very best against such a capable bunch if they are to secure a positive outcome.
Sky Blues Reserves earned a well deserved 2-2 draw despite being a man down for most of the second half when they played Maghera Strollers at Mill Park in Tobermore.
The Blues got off to a dream start when on 10 minutes after good play by Brady, he played a ball into Hawe who took his touch across the defender and brilliantly curled a shot into the top corner with his left foot.
The Blues then switched off and within 10 minutes the Strollers somehow found themselves in the lead with 2 well taken goals.
Magherafelt started to come back into the game but neither team created any noteworthy chances to leave themselves behind at the break.
The Blues started the second half on the front foot trying to get back into the game but they were dealt a blow when they were harshly reduced to 10 men after only five minutes of the second half. Undeterred by this the Blues upped their game and with fresh legs now on the pitch they got a deserved equaliser on 65 minutes. Hawe, now playing the lone man up front, managed to get his head onto the end of a McGuckin free kick before the Strollers keeper and defender, and seen the ball roll into the empty net.
Both teams failed to sit back and the last 25 minutes were a very open and entertaining game of football. The Blues defence, lead superbly by Monaghan, held firm and McGeehan was only troubled a few times but dealt with the shots comfortably.
It was the Blues who had the best chances to snatch the win when after seeing a few good chances go a-begging, in the dying moments Hawe somehow found himself all alone in the box, rounded the keeper only to see his goal bound shot cleared off the line by a Strollers defender with the last kick of the game.
Sky Blues: M. McGeehan, S. Brady (J. Arrell), S Monaghan, D. McGuckin, S. Hassan (C. Rafferty), M. Kelly, A. Dougan, A. Hawe, D. O’Neill, A. McElhone, E. Doole (M. Devlin)
Magherafelt Sky Blues were awarded a bye in the first round of the Irish Junior Cup after opponents Killowen Celtic pulled out of the competition.
At least the Blues now have the away trip that every junior club cherishes to face new opposition and the traditional day and night out against Aquinas FC.
This is a massively tough task for the Blues against the city men who hit Lurgan for five in the previous round and are in fine form in their league.
Although the Blues have impressed in recent performances and are free scoring, their leaky backline could prove their Achilles’ heel in this tie. It looks a home win.