Opinion: Win a welcome boost after miserable period

As victories go, there was arguably more significance to Ballymena United’s weekend victory at Ballinamallard than merely three Danske Bank Premiership points.

Mark Surgenor came off worst in this clash during Saturday's match at Ballinamallard - but the midfielder had the last laugh as he continued his rich vein of scoring form in games against the Fermanagh side. Picture: Press Eye.

Don’t get me wrong, those points were extremely welcome - it’s extraordinary to think that Ballymena claimed almost as many league points in 90 minutes as they have done in the whole of 2015.

But it gave the whole club a much-needed lift after the Irish Cup semi-final defeat in a season which has been in ‘slow puncture’ mode since the turn of the year.

Sign up to our daily NorthernIrelandWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It’s a result which finally enables Ballymena supporters to start looking upwards in the table, rather than peering anxiously over their shoulders about the outside possibility of getting sucked into the relegation battle.

The announcement of the team sheets no doubt prompted some discussion among the hardy United fans who decided the season hadn’t ended with last week’s defeat at the Oval.

United’s bench contained ‘big hitters’ like Allan Jenkins, Matthew Tipton and Gary McCutcheon - an indication, perhaps, of manager Glenn Ferguson’s synopsis of the semi-final defeat.

Having finally ended their goal drought at Ballinamallard in the League Cup semi-final, the Sky Blues didn’t take long to rattle the Ferney Park netting for the first time in five league visits.

Ballinamallard will certainly feel they must have done something to annoy Mark Surgenor in a previous life.

The homegrown midfielder’s goal on Saturday was the 20th of his United career - exactly a quarter of them have come against the Fermanagh side, including all three of his goals this season!

It’s doubtful whether any of the previous 19 came close to matching the quality of the right foot thunderbolt which swerved past Mallards keeper Stefan McCusker on its way to the top corner.

But yet you never feel confident that Ballymena can come through a game without conceding a goal - the damning statistic of six clean sheets - two of them against intermediate opposition - in 44 games this season tells its own story.

There was almost a sense of inevitability as Liam Martin swivelled to fire home after some more unconvincing United defending, the sort of which has been littered through Ballymena’s performances this season.

As one fan suggested to me the other day, only half-jokingly, Glenn Ferguson’s transfer budget for next season should be swelled by the money saved in not having to pay clean sheet bonuses this term!

But it was fitting that Neal Gawley and Matthew Tipton - two players who have made a big contribution to United’s season - should get the goals to earn United their first league win in Fermanagh.

The result alone won’t have a major bearing on United’s season but at least it may provide the spur for a strong finish.

* Follow Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena).