Costello: I owed boss goals!

JAMES Costello scored twice as many goals inside 15 minutes as he has done in the previous eight months as Ballymena United cruised to an easy win at Donegal Celtic on Saturday.

The big striker has endured a largely forgettable season since his move from Glenavon but he exploded into life with a brace of goals which helped the Sky Blues to a victory which mathematically ensured they can’t now be relegated from the Carling Premiership.

Instead, United are making steady upward progress under rookie manager Glenn Ferguson and if they can maintain their current eight-match unbeaten run, then ‘finishing top of the bottom six’ remains a realistic possibility.

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For Costello, his two-goal blast marked a welcome upturn in his fortunes after a frustrating campaign which had yielded just one goal before Saturday – even if he was denied the chance of a hat-trick when he was taken off to a rapturous ovation with 15 minutes left.

“I was raging at coming off – I wanted to stay on!” grinned Costello afterwards.

“It was strange to score twice so early in the game. Glenn has been working with me in training and pushing me to shoot earlier – I think I’ve been guilty of holding onto the ball too long at times.

“The first one I hit it straight away and I think I caught the keeper off guard. Jenks (Allan Jenkins) was wanting a return pass but he wasn’t going to get it!

“The second one was a wee bit craftier – I managed to put the ball through Declan O’Hara’s legs and run round him and score off the post.

“It’s my own fault I haven’t scored more goals because Glenn has given me plenty of opportunities so I think I owed him those goals.

“I came in last summer with a really high expectation under Roy Walker but on the field it just didn’t work out for me. I was ready to leave in January but Glenn came in and made it his business to block any move away.

“I think sometimes he has tried to mould me into the type of player he was and when he talks, you listen.

“I’m out of contract in four games so some of the boys in that position, particularly those who travel a fair bit, would like to get our situations cleared up soon,” added Costello

Costello fired United in front with just 53 seconds on the clock. Jenkins fed a ball into the striker’s feet just inside the penalty area and with the captain screaming for a return pass, Costello instead cleverly spun his defender and fired a low shot beyond keeper Robert Robinson and in off the far post.

His second, on 15 minutes, was even better. Having picked up Gavin Taggart’s through ball towards the bye-line on the left hand side of the penalty area, with the imposing figure of DC defender Declan O’Hara blocking his route to goal, a cut-back across the penalty area looked the most likely option.

However, Costello flicked the ball through O’Hara’s legs, ran past the defender and fired a smashing shot from an acute angle, the ball making a satisfying ‘clink’ as it entered the net via the inside of the far post.

Despite those two strikes, Costello was still trumped in the ‘best goal of the day’ stakes by United’s third, scored by Alan Davidson.

The midfielder ran on to Gary McCutcheon’s pass four minutes after the restart before unleashing a first time half volley which flew past Robinson and into the top corner of the net to put the outcome beyond any doubt.

Indeed, but for wasteful finishing in front of goal and the agility of former Showgrounds favourite Robinson, United’s winning margin would have been even greater as they completed an uncharacteristically easy victory at Suffolk Road.

Donegal Celtic: Robinson, Keegan, O’Hara, Burns, Harkness, Bradley, McAlorum, O’Connor (sub Devine 80), Lambe (sub Cunningham 46), Murray, P McVeigh (sub Cahill 67). Subs (not used): McIlkenny, G McVeigh.

Ballymena United: Nelson, Rodgers, Stewart, Taylor, Vauls, A Davidson, Taggart, Jenkins, J Davidson (sub Teggart 58), McCutcheon (sub Lowry 81), Costello (sub Baker 74). Subs (not used): Carson, Reid.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Glengormley).