Larne attacker Ronan Hale pays homage to "great striker" Joe Gormley

Ronan Hale is starting to hit form

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Larne v Cliftonville (tonight, Inver Park, 7.45pm)


LARNE striker Ronan Hale hopes to emulate the goal-scoring exploits of Cliftonville legend Joe Gormley ahead of tonight’s Irish Premiership clash between the sides at Inver Park.

Hale, who was on Birmingham City’s books during his teens, grabbed his first goal of the season in Larne’s 2-2 draw with Portadown last Saturday having been entrusted with the central striker’s role.

Last season, Hale performed well on Larne’s left flank but boss Tiernan Lynch believes the north Belfast man can be more prolific at centre forward.

“I’m adapting to the striker’s role,” Hale said.

“I was obviously playing left wing last season and I’m through the middle this season. The goals haven’t really been flying in but I’ve been changing my game up a wee bit, I’ve had four assists so far which is the same amount as I had last season already.

“I’m not worried about the goals, they’ll come. It’s about my overall play and trying to help the team as much as I can.”

A prolific goal-scorer at underage level with Birmingham City, Hale was loaned out to Derry City in 2018 before staying at home where he had further spells with Crusaders and St Patrick’s Athletic.

“When I was at Birmingham, I was the goal-scorer, I played on the shoulder of the last defender. To get the best out of me I think I’m better through the centre and going constantly in behind. This season I’ve been trusted as the number nine and hopefully I can keep that position.”

A big fan of Gormley who has proven his goal-scoring worth over many seasons with the Reds, Hale said: “There are a lot of great strikers in this league and we’re facing one of them in Joe Gormley.

“He is a great goal-scorer. To score goals like him, that’s what you strive to do. That was my first league goal against Portadown on Saturday and hopefully I can kick on from that.”

Despite dropping two points at Coleraine on Saturday in a scoreless draw, Paddy McLaughlin’s men are still top of the league, three points better off than second-placed Glentoran – but fifth-placed Larne can close the gap to two points should they claim all three points tonight.

“Obviously we dropped points on Saturday but so did the Reds,” said the 22-year-old Newington man.

“We’re no different since we lost to Coleraine. It’s a big statement if we beat the Reds as it’s only two points again. That’s how tight this league is.

“It’s been up and down for us this season. We’ve had some good results and some shaky results but no better game to bounce back tomorrow night against the top of the league side.”

On Saturday, Hale cancelled out Adam Salley’s first of two strikes at Shamrock Park before Davy McDaid popped up with an 89th minute equaliser.

“Portadown is a tough game away. The Blues drew with them there and Cliftonville just about beat them at Shamrock Park. We went a goal behind and we were chasing it after about 10 minutes. We were all over them but we couldn’t get the winner. It’s not a loss, we’ll take it and we move in.”

Fourth-placed Coleraine take on second-placed Glentoran tonight while champions Linfield, sitting in third, are expected to claw back more ground at home to Carrick Rangers.

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