19 °CWed, 15

CAPTAIN Jim Ervin takes command on the pitch of trying to guide Ballymena United to Toals County Antrim Shield glory next Tuesday (January 23) at the Showgrounds (7.45pm).

The Sky Blues tackle Premier League leaders Crusaders in the show-piece in front of what is sure to be sell-out crowd.

Ervin, who missed United's 3-0 Premiership home win over Carrick Rangers at the weekend through a one game suspension, cannot wait for kick-off.

Two years ago Ervin had the honour of lifting aloft the Shield at Windsor Park after

United had beaten Linfield on their doorstep.

And the 32-year-old youth football coach intends doing all in his power to make sure the Shield remains at the Showgrounds on Tuesday week.

Ervin, who admits he is playing the best football of his career under manager David Jeffrey, is well aware of the task laying ahead when the Shore Road men come to town.

The attacking full-back told Guardian Sport that form goes out the window in the Shield final - and made it clear that it is the team that wants the silverware more that comes out on top.

The former Linfield man said he knows the United fans will be out in force to cheer them on.

"We are very grateful for their vocal backing," outlined Ervin. "At the Shield final we expect a full house. "

Ervin spent nine-and-half years at Windsor Park before joining United.

He is certainly in peak form and intends taking his vast experience to the Shield final.

Ervin knows quite a battle awaits the Sky Blues, who at the weekend beat Carrick Rangers 3-0 in the Premiership.

The defender watched from the sidelines as Tony Kane turned in a polished display at right back, and striker Kevin Braniff (2) and Matthew Shelvin weighed in with the goals.

United have met the Crues twice this season - losing on both occasions.

In the season opener at Seaview Ballymena were well beaten - 4-1. Teen striker Shevlin was on target.

Back at the Belfast venue just before Christmas United were unlucky to have lost 2-1.

Shevlin was again on the scoresheet; it took a penalty to net Stephen Baxter's side all three points.

Although very much looking forward to the Shield showdown Ervin was quick to point out their is a lot of serious football to be played between now and then.

Tonight (Tuesday) - weather permitting - United take on Cliftonville in the semi-final of the BetMcLean League Cup at the Showgrounds (7.45pm).

And on Saturday United play Ards in the Premiership in Bangor (3pm) with their thoughts very much on holding on to their top six position.

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