At the time of writing Lisburn Distillery have won two out of their three pre-season friendly matches against Dromara Village and St Lukes last Saturday, the squad was split for two matches, before losing against Premiership side Carrick Rangers. While pre-season friendlies often a welcome return from 8 weeks without football they certainly don’t compare to the real thing, which for Lisburn Distillery will not kick off for another four weeks when we travel to Ards Rangers in the 1st round of the Steel and Sons Cup, but it does offer a welcome opportunity for supporters to cast their eye over any new additions to the squad.
In the close season Lisburn Distillery said farewell to Jody Lynch, Tony Galbraith, Darren Bell, Matty Boyd, Jack McCrea and Rhys Grainger and we wish them all well in the next part of their footballing journey. Coming in there has been no fewer than seven signings in the shape of William Cushley, Matthew Ferguson, Tyler Wilgaus, Gary Workman, Pat Saunders, Conor Corry and Jonah Nicholl
Last season was all about stability for the Whites after suffering two relegations in four years and while the side did achieve that they did flirt briefly with relegation in the last couple of months of the season before managing to pull away in the last few games to finish 9th but it was clear strengthening was required in some key areas if we are to push on into the top half of the table this season.
If the league table was decided on goals conceded then last season the Whites would have finished 11th (second bottom), and on top of that in a total of 37 matches in all competitions Distillery only managed to keep 10 clean sheets all season with goalkeeping and defence errors proving costly on a number of occasions so it was clear the backline was one area that needed new additions. Joining the side for this season are goalkeepers Pat Saunders and Jonah Nicholl, replacing the outgoing Tony Galbraith and Jack McCrea. Whites fans may remember Saunders from our 3-2 defeat at home against Sport & Lesiure when he pulled off some fine saves, including a penalty save from Alan McMurtry. Based on their pre-season performances so far Saunders certainly seems to be more vocal than his predecessors and neither keeper is afraid to come off their line when required.
Also joining is defender Connor Corry, who so far has played both right back and left back in friendly appearances. Connor joins from Wellington Rec but has previously played in The Championship with Larne and Knockbreda and was also previously with the Whites current management team at Albert Foundry where he won their Player of the Year trophy one season. Connor has impressed so far in his pre-season appearances and fans will be hoping he can maintain this when the competitive action comes around. Whilst not technically a new signing another big defensive boost for the Whites is the resigning of William Wharry. ‘Wurzul’ was a huge player for the side in the first half of the season, winning the clubs Echlinville Player of the Month trophy, but unfortunately a change of jobs meant Wurzul was unavailable in the second half of the season, though he did return for a few appearances near the end of the season and played a key role in the clubs survival. If Wurzul can play fairly regularly then he could potentilly be the clubs signing of the summer.
In terms of goals scored the Whites fared slightly better but were still languishing towards the bottom end of the table. The teams top two scorers were midfielders Alan McMurtry (13) and Jonny McCaw (12), while strikers Paul Young and Nick Beta finished with respectable tallies, 12 and 10 respectively but it was the general consensus of supporters that something more was needed up front.
The first signing of the summer was striker William Cushley who joined from Lisburn Rangers were he scored over 20 goals this season. The Whites management team had been chasing Cushley for some time but his signature eluded them in January. ‘Cush’ is no stranger to New Grosvenor as he used to regularly attend to watch his brother David when he played for the Whites, David was a fan favourite at Distillery and will be forever etched in the clubs history after scoring the winner in the 2011 League Cup final victory against Portadown. Cushley has never played at this level of football before and fans will be hoping he can make the step up and produce the form he has shown for his previous sides.
Finally, another attacking player that has joined is midfielder/striker Matthew Ferguson, Matthew was with Dundela last season and scored two goals in three appearances against Distillery. Matthew was previously in the Premiership with Ballymena, were he won the County Antrim Shield in 2015/16. Matthew’s father is none other than the legendary Irish League striker Glenn Ferguson, scorer of over 500 Irish League goals for Ards, Glenavon, Linfield and Lisburn Distillery. Glenn was also part of the aforementioned League Cup winning team and was named Man of the Match in the final.
Having strengthened in the required areas Whites fans are now looking forward to the start of the season to see who the new charges fare in competitive action and will also await to see if the squad is strengthened further before the end of August.