Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Are Ballymena finally getting it Wright?

I’m almost reluctant to raise the subject lest my acknowledgment presages a dramatic return to type, but I can no longer ignore the remarkable form being shown by Ballymena United. The chant “United are back” has rung out on innumerable false dawns since the Sky Blues’ last major trophy in 1989, but yesterday at the Oval it carried the stiffened intent of 12 games without loss as it echoed across the East Belfast gloom.

I have retained a degree of cynicism during the unbeaten run, although I’ve welcomed the increased resolve and spirit which have enabled the team to string together a consistent series of results. Beating Glentoran 4-2, away from home, having twice fallen behind, is an achievement of a different magnitude however and the manner in which this accomplishment was realised has sparked in me the sneaking suspicion that perhaps what Tommy Wright is constructing at the Showgrounds could be genuinely special.

Ballymena proved yesterday that not only can they eke out results, but also that they can play resourceful, creative and enterprising football. Operating with only Kevin Kelbie as a conventional striker, support nevertheless arrived consistently from midfielders Scates and Melaugh, with King and Picking stretching Glentoran on the flanks. Despite a couple of defensive lapses, United gradually countered the impressive skills of Gary Hamilton and with his threat negated, forceful running from midfield provided the firepower to secure a valuable win.

Following Ballymena has been a thankless and debilitating pursuit over the years. I and other supporters have had our hopes dashed on too many occasions to start looking beyond the prescient cliché of the next game. That match will be at home to Glenavon who will be galvanised by a change in management. The following week sees United travelling to Newry to embark on a new Irish Cup campaign. I would point out that United were considered fearsome Cup fighters when they last tasted success in the 1980s and that the Cup remains the most likely source of silverware, but then I would be getting beyond that next game ………

1 comment:

Dinamo said...

At least during the 1980s the SBC savoured the 3 irish cup triumphs and the cup-winners cup matches every autumn (now long since gone due to G14/UEFA collusion). Thin pickings since then and I admit I am only an irregular attender (aka a part-timer)now but the thrill re-emerges occasionally.
Now what chance do the rest of the league stand when Linfield use our NI fans gate receipts to pay professional wages? Until that restrictive practice is addressed then the league will have a structural imbalance.
But not at the cost of going to the Maze of course.