Sky Blue Sport News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Soldier On!

The Sky Blue Sport crew have to miss the match against the Ducks at Ferney Park tomorrow, because of prior commitments. Well in fact we are kicking our collective heels in Spain, enjoying the Spanish sun if not the strong breeze and generally having a relaxing time. Not even Rusty Ray is going to at the game tomorrow, so we will have no presence at the game for the first time for a while. But we will be with United in spirit, but they will have to soldier on without our bodies.

We couldn't´t ascertain any team news, so we don´t know if Paddy Mac and Cookie remain on the injured list or not? Anyway our defence is so porous, you could drive a bus through it, so it doesn´t make any difference who does or doesn´t play. The only thing that we can hope for is to score more goals than the opposition, a tall order we know, but needs must, so come on Sky Blues, lets shag those duckies!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Torn Between!

This may seem like a strange headline, but we think it sums up our mood going into tomorrow's Irish cup semi-final against Portadown, exactly. We are torn between wanting our beloved Sky Blues to win and proceed to the Irish cup final for the second season running, the first time since since the 1959 final. But a long way to go to eclipse the 1929-31 finals, where we reached 3 finals in succession. If we beat the Ports tomorrow and lady luck has been with us against Chickenville and the Welders, our manager will no doubt get an extension to his contract.

If on the other hand, we lose, god forbid, we expect our board to say enough, is enough and appoint some visionary to take us to a higher level. Fergie, has taken us to the three finals, only winning one of them. But if truth be known, it was a surprise, given that we had shipped six goals to Linfield, whom we beat to win the Country Antrim Shield, barely a month or so previously. Fergie took us to another two finals in 2014 and 2015 and we deservedly lost them both.

But we have a chance to get to our 4th final tomorrow under his rule and Fergie has been at pains this week, to point out that we need better players, if we want to compete at the highest level. We at 'Sport are in agreement with him, bit we would point out that except for 5 or 6 players, in our first team panel, these are 'his players' and he gave them extended contracts just this season. But if Fergie is giving leave to carry on, which players are going to leave this season and who will he bring in.

We have been with Glenn all the way , but sometimes his tactics leave us nonplussed. He's a great believer in everybody playing to the system as he sees it and he's an avid believer in 4,3,3. It may have worked when he was at Linfield, in all those glory filled years, but alas at Ballymena it hasn't been an unqualified success. He started out this season, by playing a 4,4,2, system and when it became unstuck due to loss of form and injuries, he abandoned it.

He has since rekindled it, but with Maca cup-tied, he has been playing Gawley and his form has gone to the doldrums. The same could be said for  United's talisman, Cush, who blows hot and cold ,but mainly cold. So it will come as no surprise, if he goes back to to his favoured system tomorrow, he will live or die with that system, we fervently hope he lives. If we by some miracle overcome the Ports tomorrow and go on and win the cup, who knows what that can do to our fortunes.

The news on the injury front is not good, with Cookie picking up a groin strain in training and no word of Gavin and McVey, but on the plus side, JT is expected to declare himself fit. Our big goalkeeper Tall Tim, needs to assert himself, not like the last two weeks, he can't expect ref Andrew Davey to take his side every time. So its all systems to go for the Sky Blues, let's send these Portadowners to their orchards where they belong, lets shag them good, come on Sky Blues!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Home Comforts!

United go into their penultimate match before the split with a home game against league leaders Crues. Not only are they league leaders, but the they have plundered 77 goals and United have let in 68 goals, so a scoreless game doesn't look likely. The Sky Blues will no doubt be hoping for a positive result in this is our last home game before Easter and the last game before our Irish cup semi-final, against Portadown. Judging by our managers pre-match comments, it doesn't look likely, he'll play a weakened team and he has emphasised the need to get a result from this game.

It's not known whether Cutch, who transferred to Ballymena from the Crues, is eligible as he is the latest United player to be bound by a Gentleman's agreement, between him and the Crues manager, Stephen 'Mr Ugly' Baxter. So he is a signed United player, but he might as well be on loan, if this proves to be the case. Definitely missing from the Sky Blues line-up, will be Thommo, JT and Cush as they are all serving suspension, but they should be available for the the semi-final next week.

In the absence of JT, who will Spike select alongside Paddy Mac at the centre of our defence. Does he take a chance on Cookie, who struggled along with all our other players at Stangmore, last Friday night or does he, as he has done in the past, ask his Captain Jenks, to drop back into defence? We at 'Sport are of the opinion that Jenks will be needed to bolster the midfield, with Thommo and Cush  not available and Maca cup-tied next week.

He could maybe take a chance and play the versatile Sparky at the centre of defence, but we think he will not want to take a chance with the Crues forwards in prolific form. Paul Heatley, ex-Carrick Rangers, needs no introduction to United fans, as he took a 'dive' to win a penalty as United were cruelly dumped out the league cup semi-final a couple of  seasons ago. We'll need a strong ref to combat Heatley's diving tomorrow, but our luck is out for the ref appointed, is none other than Tim 'nice but dim' Marshall.

So it'll be a hard game, but one we have got to be up for and its a last chance to get a decent gate, as it is a Corporate dinner, we'll be lucky if the Crues bring 150, in fact 150 would be a good crowd for them. There is a collection on behalf Huntingdon disease, which is a degenerative disease, affecting people in all walks of life, so please do give generously to this worthy cause. Lets hope the Sky Blues are up for this one, so come on Sky Blues, lets shag those paper tigers!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Not Pretty!

United go into this match at Dungannon Swifts tomorrow night, doomed to a bottom six finish, but we hope they don't take their foot of the gas. We aren't out of the woods yet as regards automatic relegation, but three points at Stangmore tomorrow night,should go a long way to ensuring that. What selection will our manager make? One change was forced on him with injury to JT last Saturday, luckily its not so bad as feared, badly bruised and not broken, but he'll missing for a number of weeks.

We, at 'Sport expect Glenn to start with Cookie in JTs place or he could start with Captain Jenks, who played there with distinction on a number of occasions in the past. With the return of Steeky from his one game ban, we should have a back four of Jimer, Steeky, Paddy Mac and Cookie or Jenks, therefore releasing Tony into midfield. Will Fergie recall the cup-tied Maca in place of the disappointing Gawley and might there be a chance to give Darboy a rare start?

We'll have to wait and see on that one, but Glenn has found a way to play his two favourite players, Captain Jenks and Thommo, in the same team and we fully expect him to start with virtually the same side as last week, the only two changes, Steeky and Cookie. A word here about the young lad Craig Gardiner, who filled in at a leftback in the absence of Steeky last week. Bruce Balmer was scathing in his match report on young Craig and most of all he was livid with our manager Spike, but we had to calm him down.

The manager saw a way to give the youngster a baptism to the cut and thrust of Irish cup action and he took a chance and he was rescued at the eleventh hour by the 'never say die' attitude of our team. The 'Sport crew to a man, thought we were dead and buried when Tippers weak penalty was saved by the Welders keeper, but credit to our players, they kept going and we were rewarded with a last gasp victory. But its back to the bread and butter of league football tomorrow night and we best be up for it.

The ref is our old friend Heth and we think the NIFL is taking the 'piss' as he is a native of Dungannon, but what's new. In the absence of regular spot-kick king, Ally, will Tippers still get the nod if we should be lucky enough to get one, or will the responsibility fall to Cutch? We suppose we'll have to wait and see on that one, but it will make for an interesting talking point. Its not going to be pretty, but if we want enough we can do it, so come Sky Blues, lets shag those chicken shaggers!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lunch Crunch!

It will really be a lunch(time) crunch, when the Sky Blues take on H & W Welders tomorrow at Tillysburn, 13-30, lick-off. We at 'Sport don't see the need for this game to kick-off as early as that, its not dark until about 6 o'clock now and if the game runs to extra-time and the dreaded penalty kicks, it should be over in under three hours and could start as late as 14-30 hrs, in our opinion. But the IFA is running the competition and they are still stuck in the dark ages.

We cannot stress the importance of this game to United's season, we succumbed to Chickenville last Saturday and blew our outside chance of being involved in the top six. The Irish cup is all we have to keep our fans interested until the seasons end. The crowds will be dwindling when all we have to look forward to is meaningless games against Dungannon, Warrenpoint and the Ducks, our manager assures us, we are ready for the task ahead.

We think Fergie will revert to his favoured 4,3,3, formation, with Tony, Thommo and Captain Jenks as his midfield three. In the absence of the suspended Steeky, we expect Mike Ruddy to play in the back-four alongside Jimer, JT and Paddy Mac. We freely admit to be only guessing at the make-up of the team, but Spike has to make the correct decision of who to play in his three striking roles, or who gets a place on the bench.

Despite a terrible loss of form, we would expect him to select Cush and Cutch, but its the other two strikers, Darboy and Tippers, that he has to choose between. Despite denials from our management, Tippers seems to be out of favour and the 'Sport  crew was idly wondering if he's fallen out with Spike or some other member of our management team. If that's not the case and he has been carrying an injury, denied by Spike, we think he should get the nod tomorrow, if not, it will be Darboy.

On the opposite side of the pitch will be an ex-United player, Michael McClellan (MM for short), trying to put one over us and our management team. He was discarded by our manager at the end of last season and didn't even warrant a place on the bench or indeed in the panel, at the Irish cup final in May, when we were crying out for a striker. MM has scored 30 odd goals this season and will prove a handful to our defence, but he isn't the only danger-man in the Welders team.

We fully expect the Welders team to lift their 'game' as they have a chance to get to the Irish cup semi-final and maybe it will be the greatest achievement for some of them in their whole career. We think they won't let us play football, they'll be wanting to get stuck in and try to unsettle us from the start, we have to be prepared for that. It will be hard game, but if we want it enough, we should do it, but we sincerely hope they'll be no pussyfooting around, so come Sky Blues, lets shag those Welders!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Must Win!

United go into tomorrows game at the Colosseum, or Solitude as its more familiarly known against Chickenville and they need to feed them to the lions. Its a win at all costs game as the Sky Blues chase their forlorn hopes of a top six finish in the Dankse Bank Premiership. We could win tomorrow and not stand a chance of finishing in the top six, if Glenavon get a result against league leaders, Crusaders, it goes without saying that we will be rooting for the Crues.

But first we have got to take care of our game and with that in mind we reckon they'd be a recall for top scorer Tippers, who was rested for last Saturday's win at home to 'Stute. Will Fergie rest one or two of his stars with next weeks cup match against the Welders in mind. Normally we would say yes, but Fergie is going for league points and with Reds also trying to finish higher than they are at present, it promises to be another humdinger of a game.

The Reds will be anxious to avenge their Irish cup defeat at the hands of the Sky Blues, but United for their part know that Chickenville are not as invincible as they once seemed. In the end it will be all down to who gets the tactics right in the last third of the pitch. The referee Evan Boyce, is a fair as anyone and with our old pal Ian 'Andy' McNabb as fourth official, we will surely get a far crack of the whip or as fair as the Reds crowd allows.

They have been known to influence refs in the past, but we won last time in spite of the refs blunders, when he bowed to crowd influence or did we imagine that Gormely took a dive over JT to win the penalty. But enough of dwelling in the past, its a new ball game tomorrow and our players have got to raise their game again, or perish among the also-rans. Its going to be a tough ask and we need our supporters to be there in numbers and they can be the twelfth man and lift the team to the three points.

We don't know if Paddy Mac has recovered from injury and if Cush will be risked from the start, he was looking a little jaded last Saturday and we'll need him next week against the Welders. Chickenville on the other hand will get a week off next Saturday and they'll have nothing to lose except pride so we expect them to come at us and keep coming at us and inevitably, they will leave gaps that we can exploit, with Maca's speed and Cutch's class. So come on Sky Blues, lets shag those Chickenvillers!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Get Going!

We have frittered about long enough this season and tomorrow's game against 'Stute signals the time we have got to get going. If we only get a  draw tomorrow or the unthinkable happens and we lose at home to the bottom team, 'Stute, we will leave ourselves a very high mountain to climb. If we finish in the bottom six, as it now seems nailed on, we will have two away games against tomorrow's opponents and our dear friends down the A26, the Coleraine scum and if we are chasing points, these in turn will be really difficult fixtures.

But if by some miracle, we get all three points, it would set us up for two very difficult away fixtures against Chickenville and Dungannon and sandwiched between an extremely difficult Irish cup game at the Welders. So you see it doesn't get any easier, a win tomorrow, much as it would be welcome, doesn't in itself solve all our problems, it just eases them for a bit and then we are right back in the smelly stuff.

What team does Spike select tomorrow, we hear you ask and honestly we haven't the foggiest. We can speculate as to who we'd like him to pick, but in an interview with Stephen Alexander of the BT, he was blaming individual errors for our defeat. Never mind his team selection that invited the visitors, Glentoran, to run rings round and through our sluggish midfield, instead he chose to cite individual errors as the sole cause of our defeat on Tues night.

In truth we cannot argue with his reasoning, it was JT and Tall, who committed the errors that led to the first Glentoran goal, but where was our midfielders, that they couldn't get back to get a tackle in. For the second goal, Jimer's slack pass was intercepted, but again our midfield was found wanting, slack marking and even slacker tackling. There's an old saying, that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear, but why, oh why, does Spike figure that he can make our slow players into a no nonsense midfield.

Its never going to happen Glenn, better to cut your losses and play to their strengths, whatever they might be. By all means get JT, Jimer and Tall, to cut out trying to work the ball out of defence and while you're at it, stop these stupid short free-kicks and short corners. Lets get down to basic defending and no frills football and not try to play something that's beyond our skill factor, its time to wake and smell the coffee and lets shag those Riverside boys, come on Sky Blues!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cloud Eight!

We have started to come down into the real world, we were on cloud nine since ten to five on Saturday, when our talisman, David 'The King' Cushley, slew the Chickenville dragon, that had threatened our fluffy sheep. We had started to come down in the last hour, when we realised we have another game tomorrow night against Glentoran. Its six games now since we beat the Glens and we think if memory serves us correctly, it was a Tony Kane thunderbolt shot, which gave us victory on that occasion.

The question is, what chance of history repeating itself tomorrow night? The answer is every chance, the Glens have found a good run of form and are getting results and like ourselves they are in the next round of the Irish cup, so they'll be no pushover. We used to have the Indian sign over them, at their ground, but that record has been washed away and our record at home to them is not too healthy. The last time we met at the Showgrounds, last September, United were reduced to ten men early in the game, when our Captain was harshly sent off, when conceding a doubtful penalty.

In the end we were disappointed with a draw, as we had numerous chances to register our first win over them for yonks. As it was we snatched a late draw and it was commendable with us playing with ten men for so much of the game, but in truth we should have taken all three points. But that is us all over, we fritter away easy chances and then convert hard ones, when we look dead and buried. We were wondering if Spike might give a home debut to Eamon McAllister and throw him in from the start. The barber, Gawley, was a shadow of himself on Saturday and Ally didn't impress against Linfield, ten days ago.

Cutch, hasn't missed a game since he signed for us in the transfer window, except for the league cup final, where he was cup-tied, but as proved in his last two outings, we need to devise a plan if we are going to start him, week-in and week-out. Better to start Tippers and Darboy tomorrow night against the Glens, if we are playing this 4,4,2, formation. They, in our opinion, give us much more fluency in attack and they have signed on for the long haul.

There should be another two players making their home debut tomorrow, Tall and Paddy Mac and if they continue to perform at the level of last Saturday, they will be a great assets for the Sky Blues. With the announcement of Dwayne being granted a testimonial by the club, we would like to thank Dwayne for all his loyalty to the club and we wish him every success in this his testimonial season. So come on Sky Blues, lets shag those Cock and Hens!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Tall Tim!

Our manager Spike, completed his transfer dealings on Saturday with the capture of a six foot plus keeper, named Tim Allen, hereafter called Tall. Tim was born in Australia, played College football in USA or soccer as its known across there. It would be fair to say he is a raw talent, never having played league football, or at any rate, the rough tumble that is the Irish Premier league. He comes highly recommended by our former keeper, Dermot O'Neill, who alerted us last season to Aaron Shanahan and what a signing he turned out to be.

It's not known whether our manager will risk playing Tall, it would be a terrible gamble, but Spike's not afraid to take a risk and he proved it when he promoted first choice keeper Dwayne, for the league cup final against Chickenville, ignoring the fact that he hadn't played first team football for the previous seven weeks. Opinions vary on whether Spike made a mistake, with his selection of Dwayne that day, or whether Dwayne was just let down by his defenders, Spike, seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The IFA has given written confirmation of Tall's clearance to play against Chickenville in the Irish cup this Saturday, but whether the club would take a chance on that being rescinded at a later date remains to be seen. If there's any doubt, best not to take a chance, we have been stung a few times before, with the IFA backtracking, on what they said previously. What team will Fergie pick we hear you ask and the answer is, your guess is as good as ours.

We got our lines crossed last Saturday, when he completely fooled us and reverted back to a 4,4,2, formation, not a 4,3,3, as we had thought reading between the lines of his comments to the Ballymena Times. His plans were hampered somewhat with the illness of Thommo, but with the former Distillery player fit again, he may well revert back to a 4,3,3, or completely fool us again and play a 4,5,1, formation, we are clutching at straws here.

Whatever players Spike picks and whatever formation he goes for, we know history is against us. Winning games at Solitude has proved difficult for us in the last number of seasons. We ran them close in the Charity Shield and the County Antrim Shield this season, but we imploded in our last league game at their ground in December, in a game best forgotten. In the league cup final at Windsor Park, we ran them close also, only losing by the odd goal, but they give us a football lesson at times it has to be said.

But we were punished by letting crosses come in, in the final, leading to two goals from them and its is a simple thing to eliminate, don't let crosses come in, better a corner than a goal or a better a foul and you have time to organise, crosses hurt you. Its hard with a footballing side like the Reds, but we must have a no-nonsense attitude if we are to succeed. It'll be tough, but if we want to progress we must dig in, so come on Sky Blues, lets shag those Chickenvillers!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Paddy Mac!

We have all been crying out for our manager, Spike, to recruit an all-round midfielder, a commanding centre-back and some fans (not us), have been saying we need a commanding keeper. What does Spike do, he signs our former striker, Cutch and an ex-Crues winger, Eamon McAllister. We all thought that was him finished, but then at the 'eleventh hour', Wednesday past actually, he signs 20 year-old Paddy McNally, a central defender, whom we admit, we never even heard of, until he was mentioned on teletext signing for Warrenpoint Town.

Had our management team been watching this situation closely or not, we don't honestly know, but a few hours after he was reportedly to be signing for the Point, twitter informed us that he was indeed signing for the Sky Blues. His career has been well documented in the last few days, he spent some time on Glasgow Celtic's books. He then returned home and signed for Chickenville and this season he was at Glenavon and played against us at the Showgrounds. Is he the answer to our defensive problems or is he a panic buy, only time will tell.

We don't expect him to start tomorrow at Windsor Park against the IFA, reading between the lines, Fergie, stated in an interview with the Ballymena Times, the only change he envisaged, was possibly, Jimer as JT's partner at the centre of defence and Tony reverting to rightback. Fergie, still believes in his policy and he believes his players will adapt to that policy, even though teams continue to show us up and continue to drive a bus through our toothless midfield. The IFA, tomorrow's opponents, are not firing in all cylinders, but we fear they'll run riot over our midfield.

Spike, could take a leaf of Alex McCrae's  book and go with a defensive team tomorrow and try to get a result and give our Irish cup opponents, Chickenville, something to think about, when we meet in eight days time, but we will be shocked if he does that. The very thought of that that is alien to Spike's personality, its not in his nature, he's an all or nothing type of guy. We have got to live with that, when it comes off, we are a treat to watch, but when it doesn't, we are a labour of love. Lets hope it comes off tomorrow, so Come On Sky Blues, lets shag those Windsor Park sheep!