Sky Blue Sport News

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!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chicken Supper!

Omar says in the late Sixties, he used to have a Breast of Chicken supper on a Saturday night about half-five. By a strange coincidence that is the time United's game against Chickenville in the league cup final, will be kicking off and Omar and all the Sky Blue Sports team, will be tucking in a Chicken(ville) supper tomorrow night. United are going into this match, fresh from their remarkable  draw last Saturday to Portadown, but this week, we supporters will have a decent view, for we are housed in Windsor Park's  North stand.

Not so our opponents, the Chickenville Reds, they are in the Alex Russell stand , or Spion Kop as its more familiarly known. But they don't seem to mind this, in fact if you listen to them, they prefer to be behind the goals as opposed to a side view, we, at 'Sport, take this statement with a pinch of salt. When we reached this final by beating the Ducks in mid-December, we were all lamenting about the team we would play in the final, Chickenville.

Not only had they won the Premier league, in the last two seasons, they had also won the League cup in the last two seasons too. If that's not enough to contend with, they were involved in a tussle for the leadership of this years championship. But since then they have faltered slightly, they won the County Antrim Shield ten days ago beating Champion side Bangor at Chickenville's own ground, 1-0, but their league form has suffered somewhat and they were  held to a draw last Saturday at home to Warrenpoint, which just gives us a wee glimmer of hope.

Will the real Sky Blues turn up tomorrow or not, that's the $64 dollar question? They definitely didn't turn up in last  season Irish cup defeat at the hands of Glenavon, where we played like a team with no conviction. But we were hampered by the injury to Jimer and by the ref, Raymond 'Richard Head' Crangle, who proved to be red card happy. But our manager Spike, didn't have ample cover on our bench and when Jimer was injured, Tony had to move to rightback and therefore we surrendered midfield to our opponents Glenavon.

We hope Spike has learned his lesson from that disappointment and picks five men that will give us real cover should we need it. It promises to be a huge crowd and we hope to get our money's worth and bring the cup back to Ballymena for the first time in its short history. Our team showed their fighting spirit last week when they came back from 5-3 down in last six minutes to get an incredible draw, 5-5. We will need that fighting spirit tomorrow, but we hope not to concede so many goals, so come on Sky Blues, lets devour those Chickens!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Twigg Magic!

Gary Twigg needs to work his magic on the playing surface of Shamrock Park, if United's game tomorrow is going to take place according to reports of snow and ice in  the weather forecast. Lets hope that's the only magic he works as he is standing-in for the suspended Mark McAllister. Will United manager Spike, give a debut to new signing Eamon McAlister (I hope we spelt his first name correctly), we wouldn't want to get admonished yet again?

We at 'Sport won't be surprised if Glenn makes a few changes, bearing in mind the league cup final against Chickenville next Saturday evening. He says he is going to play his strongest team, whether that means what he considers his beast team, or not, is open to conjecture. Will he give Tony a rest and pick Jimer or pick both of them and leave out someone in his midfield. We can't honestly see him rest any of his three strikers, they all found the net last week and will want to keep them ticking over.

Points are important to us, but the Ports need them even more and a dour scoreless draw would do us no end of good, as long as nobody picks up a serious knock.  The referee for tomorrow's game is Ian McNabb (Omar take note, it is Ian and not your mate, Andy). The last time we were at Portadown the ref was fooled by Murray, taking a dive and United's JT was sent off as a result of this, so we hope 'Ian' is up for the task ahead and will not be swayed by the histrionics of Ronnie McFall.

McFall is an old master of the art of winding referees up and he usually can manipulate them to his own teams advantage. But our manager Fergie, is learning and he needs to show a cool head tomorrow, as Ronnie will want to get the upper hand early on. Ports seldom play good football, but they are a points gathering team. They may not be pretty to watch, but they are successful in what they do, score goals from half-chances.

We, on the other hand need six chances to score one goal, but we are getting better and with Tippers and Cutch, two ex-Ports on our team, the home defence will be asked questions tomorrow. That's not forgetting Darboy and the returning Cush and we will match the home team for firepower we think. It's going to be a tough game, played on a bog of a pitch, but points will be up for grabs and the only the fittest will take them, so come on Sky Blues let's shag those Portadowners!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Cup Magic!

Tomorrow sees the start of the Irish cup for Premier league teams and as far as most Irish league fans are concerned, its the first round proper, the other rounds, were just preliminary rounds. The Sky Blues got a home draw, that's all you can hope for in knock-out competitions and they have been pitted against Amateur league side ,Crumlin Star, in a game that for the first time, will be played to a finish, with extra-time and penalties to decide the winner should they be needed.

Will that scenario influence our manager, Spike's, selection, making sure he has something left in reserve if the match should go to the dreaded penalty shoot-out. We think not and fully expect Spike, to start nearly the same X1, as he started last Saturday against Glenavon. We would caution him to play Sparky at least as his holding midfielder, but the man believes in his tactics and we fully expect him to start with what he sees as his strongest team.

Having come through a 90 minute work-out with the reserves last week, Cush and Jimer should be added to our bench and the release of Owen Kane, to Ballyclare Comrades, bears evidence to that fact, in our opinion. We don't know the first thing about Crumlin Star, but our Youth academy supremo, Joe McCall, has seen them in action and that's enough to fill us with trepidation on its own. We won't go into to Joe's shortcomings, we have done in the past, but people seem to forgive and forget, but not us.

There's a case for bringing Dwayne, back  at the expense of Addis, but we at 'Sport, think Glenn ,will stick with the ex-Linfield man in this instance. The weather forecast is for snow and followed by the heavy rain that's fallen today, the pitch should be heavy and Cookie, will probably partner JT at the heart of our defence. If Jimer is fully fit, there could be a case made for starting him at right-back or right-midfield, but we expect Spike will resist that temptation.

We expect a tough game, we never get an easy passage in these fixtures, but as long as we keep it  tight at the back, we should have too much fire-power in our front three, of Cutch, Darboy and our leading goalscorer, Tippers, to see off the Star. But they'll be some anxious moments you can bet but they'll stand us in good stead for the next round, or rounds, as the case may be. But if we want to be a force in the Premier league in this country, its time we started to act like one, so come Sky Blues, lets shag those Crumliners!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Normal Service!

After three wins on the trot, normal service was resumed when United didn't turn up at Milltown, Warrenpoint's ground yesterday. It only took the home side 4 mins to penetrate through our defences and it was more by chance that they missed so many openings, aided and abetted by our players giving the ball away too frequently. The Sky Blue crew were sorry they made the trip and they turned air blue with their comments of United's lack-lustre performance. Bruce Balmer, was so disgusted, that he didn't write his match report, but it would have been very brief anyway.

So on to tomorrows game against Glenavon at the Showgrounds. It is the opinion of the 'Sports crew that Cutch will start. Whether that's at the expense of Darboy or Tippers, is open to speculation, but Darboy was subbed at the Point and that may be an indication of Spike's thinking along those lines. It would be harsh on the Bushmills man if he had to make way for Cutch, for he has been playing well of late and he definitely was one of our better players yesterday. But needs must and we need to play our strongest starting X1 tomorrow.

Marky, who has two good games under his belt, maybe be sacrificed to make way for Cookie and that be in turn harsh on the Randalstown man, who was the pick of our defenders at Milltown yesterday. JT, had a nightmare in the first half hour and like Captain Jenks had a game he'd like to forget. But they are men for the big occasion and when Gary Hamilton's men come calling, we expect them to stand up and be counted or we really are in trouble. Stuarty Addis redeemed himself somewhat yesterday and should be given another chance in goals.

The rest of team, barring injuries, should be on the usual lines and although Sparky wasn't good yesterday, he is our only midfield tackler and needs to be picked ahead of Thommo. If Cutch plays and we expect him to do so, he will maybe give the Glenavon defenders something to think about and keep them in their own half, instead of marauding into ours. The ref, Stephen Wallace is a new one on us, but he can't be any worse than the ones we have had already this season or can he? Only time will tell if Wallace is good or bad, our only hope is that the 'real' United turn up tomorrow, COSB!