Michael McLellan returned to haunt his former club Ards on Saturday with a virtuoso performance in which he netted twice and provided two assists in a comprehensive four-goal win for H&W Welders.
The 29-year-old returned to the East Belfast club last summer – having netted a scarcely believable 74 goals in 57 appearances in his first stint – and believes the club have that special formula for him finding his best form.
Having joined Preston as a teenager from Linfield, McLellan admits he was at his “lowest point in football” after returning to Northern Ireland two years later – but the Welders, under the charge of Gary Smyth in his first spell at the club, provided him with a platform to showcase his undoubted quality.
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Speaking to Match on Tuesday over the possibility of promotion, McLellan explained: “To play for the Welders in the top-flight is something that I dream of and it would be such an incredible achievement for the club.
“With where the club are off the pitch, we have Premiership facilities but it has taken time for us to adjust to that new reality – and we need not to get carried away, but to ensure we keep challenging.
“When I signed for the Welders initially, it was my lowest point in football – and they immediately made me feel at home.
“I had come home from England then my time at Portadown and Ballymena was not playing much football then not being played in my strongest position, it was a frustrating time.
“As soon as I joined the Welders, my confidence flooded back and it immediately felt like it was my team.
“I do not see myself playing for any other club, this is my club.
“This group is incredibly close-knit, I go to lunch regularly with some of them and talk to all my teammates on a daily basis – which is probably something that my wife hates!”
The Welders are behind third-placed Loughgall on goal difference only but are eight points off Annagh in second – a significant but not insurmountable points tally.
McLellan added: “Saturday’s win over Ards was all about getting three points and re-finding some form going into the split.
“I tend not to look at the league table too much because it changes so often but our minimum target this season was to finish in the top six and then push on from that if we could.
“If we do miss out on promotion this year it will be down to us as players rather than the coaching staff because there have been too many games when we have not done ourselves justice.
“The results that have been disappointing have come from individual mistakes, but despite all the setbacks that we have had we are still right in the mix.
“Ideally we want to finish second – Newry might be too hard to catch, and we are aiming for the playoffs now.”
While the Welders – like every Championship side – has been blighted by inconsistencies this season, McLellan believes they have what it takes to see out the campaign strongly.
“We beat Ballinamallard three times this season, we beat Ards twice, we won at Annagh and at Newry,” the striker added.
“There have been a lot of inconsistencies across the league with teams lower down the standings beating those at the top quite often, but we have probably suffered from that more than most.
“We are delighted with the position that we are in going into the final run of fixtures and having played every other team three times – we don’t believe we are far behind anyone else in quality.
“The next five matches will define our season entirely from being one of par into being something special.”
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