Sky Blue Sport News

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!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fourth Force!

If United want to be a a force in 2015 and beyond, then must take a giant step at the  'Point's ground, Milltown, tomorrow. If the weather forecast is half right, then its going to be pissing down with rain, not ideal conditions for a football game, but needs must. With the good news that Jimer (Jim Ervin), played 60 minutes for the reserves on Boxing Day, as well as the news of Cutch signing (not a loan, as confirmed by a reliable source) and the imminent signing of a Linfield youth striker, competiton for places in the team is starting to look up.

Added to that Thommo, is supposed to be fit and Cush is training again, so our reserve strength won't be tested to their limits in the near future. But we hope our manager doesn't forget them and brings them in to his panel periodically. Will he, or won't he change the habits of his management so far and restore JT to his starting line-up at the expense of Cookie or the unlucky Marky. Marky proved to be our defensive king-pin in the second-half and was denied a goal at the other end of the pitch by a blind Lino. It would be hard on him if he was rested, after such a sterling performance, but our manager has never shirked from making the hard decisions when they are called for.

The rest of the team almost picks itself and barring injuries, we can't see much change in the personal. Our strike force of Darboy and Tippers have shown form in our last three matches and there's no reason to think that can't continue in that vein tomorrow. Much will depend in our ability to break up the Point's play, for they are a footballing side and referee Ross Dunlop, we hope makes allowances for the the conditions underfoot, for we need our midfielders to get stuck in. Stand off the Points attackers and they will take advantage of it and how.

We would go so far as to say that Captain Jenks and Sparky, will have a huge bearing on the game. ably backed up with the Barber and Ally, if they don't let the point dictate the game. Outside forces we can't do anything about and fervently hope that the Milltown flood-lights, don't go out as they have done in the past. Then the only thing we have to worry about is that big Wes and our keeper, Addis, have worked out if he's going to come for balls that appear to be his or not. The indecision that was evident on Boxing day, we can do without. So come on Sky Blues, let's shag those Pointers!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Big Task!

After two wins on the road and it was a long road, away to Ballinmallard on Tuesday of last week and then away to Institute on Saturday past, United are to have some home comfort on Boxing Day, when they entertain the Coleraine scum. Normally this fixture is looked forward to with glee by United supporters, but this year they have to do without their defensive stalwart, JT, who misses the game due to suspension.

Due to catalogue of injuries, too numerous to mention, United have one central defender in their panel, Marky McCullagh, who's been struggling to hold down a regular place on the bench, never mind the starting X1. Fergie, has other options at his disposal, he could deploy Captain Jenks, as a stop-gap central defender, or he could move Sparky from central-midfield, to central-defender, where he has filled in before.

But we at 'Sport think that he'll be reluctant to split up his central-midfield pairing of Sparky and Captain Jenks, which is only starting to bear fruit. He tried the versatile Mike Ruddy, in at central-defence, but its fair to say it wasn't a success. So we at 'Sport think he will select Marky and hope he rises to the occasion of a derby against the scum. In general derbies tend to be blood and thunder games and with a few points separating the two clubs, we expect this one to be no different.

The United panel, barring injuries, we expect to be on the same lines as that which got us two wins on the trot. But no offence to the Ducks and the Stute, this game against the Coleraine scum will be a tenser affair, with no quarter asked or given. These encounters generally call for a strong referee, but we lucked out on this score, when we got old 'see no evil' Colin Burns. We could wax long and hard about the shortcomings of old 'burns night', but suffice to say he doesn't fill us with any confidence.

Stuarty Addis, will do well to remember him, for he (Burns), let 'one cap' get away with a horrid tackle on Stuarty last Boxing Day at Coleraine and it was thought at one stage that Stuarty's football career was over, thankful he made a recovery. Not a full recovery, we might add, he has to bind two of his fingers together with tape, in order to be able to play, a brave man or a foolish one, we'll let our fans be the judge of that, but we at 'Sport think, he's brave.

Darboy and Tippers are only starting to fulfil their potential as striking partners and it will be interesting to see how they blend together on Friday, with the no nonsense scum defence, led by Howard Beverland. Surely if Beverland has any weakness, it is his arrogance, so its up to Darboy and Tippers to try exploit that feeling of superiority and get in among the goals. We know its going to tough, but its past time to be weak, we have to be tough and sent the scum home pointless.

There's rumours of a near sell-off crowd, but we believe it will be a good crowd, not a sell-out crowd. Coleraine fans are famous for coming in at halftime, when its free, in short they're miserable gets. So there could be 1200 in the away stand, but that's way below capacity. We'll have a good crowd too, say 1400 and it'll make for a ding dong atmosphere, so come on United, let's shag this Coleraine scum and send them down the A 26, in tears!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Drumo Derry!

This loose reference to a Camel with one hump, spelt Dromedary, is entirely meant, but as its Christmas season, we thought we would like a humorous headline, therefore Drumo Derry. United need to take a hint from the ship of the desert and prove that they have the endurance to gather points when playing three teams situated in the lower reaches of our league, in our next 3 games. Unfortunately, two of these games will include long journeys, starting with tomorrows trip to Drumahoe, to play 'Stute.

Then on Boxing Day we will face the Coleraine scum at Warden Street before 6 days later making another long trip to face Warrenpoint Town at Milltown and hope they have paid their electricity bill this month. There was some talk on Tuesday night at Ferney, about the 'Point game being played with an evening kick-off, but so far we can't confirm it, we just have to hope that common sense prevails and its a 3 o'clock kick-off, as its stated on our fixture list.

What is our manager's plans tomorrow for this difficult fixture against the 'Stute, we hear you ask and as always, we haven't the foggiest. Does he go with the team that won the league cup semi-final at Ferney or does he have someone else in mind to expose any weaknesses in the 'Stute make-up. We think he'll stick with his starting line-up, unless some of them are injured, we have got to get a settled team, at least for our next three games anyway.

With the news of Cutch signing a short contract to the end of the season, it'll be interesting to see how our manager approaches the transfer window, which starts on January 1. We still need, in our opinion anyway, a no-nonsense stopper, an all-round midfielder, as well as a back-up striker. Some people are calling for a new keeper, but great keepers are as scarce as hens teeth, so in our opinion we could let that wait until the seasons over and then go for one, or two, as the case may be.

We should have a few players coming back off injury, Cush and Jimer fall in to that mode and with a couple of new signings under our belt, 2015 will maybe not be a bad year and we have the league cup final against Chickenville at Windsor Park to look forward to. But as usual we are getting ahead of ourselves, that's all in the future, we have to deal with the present and we have to delve into our reserve strength for a few games more, So come Sky Blues, lets shag those Drumo Derry men!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Break'r Duck!

Strange headline you might think, but in our opinion it sums up what United have got to do at Ferney Park tomorrow night, kick-off  08-00pm. We have got to break our scoring duck at the Mallards ground if we are going to triumph and get to the Wasps league cup final for the first time in our history. At the other end will be the Mallards, with a vociferous home crowd behind them, trying to make sure we don't break our duck.

We have met the Mallards two times this season and the scoreline has been the same both times, a 3-0 win for the home team, so no form pointers there, except the home team seem to have the advantage. So we are up against it tomorrow night and we will have to do it the hard way, with virtually the same team as surrendered on Saturday when the Crues chalked an easy 2-0 victory against us. We say surrendered, but our manager thinks we got a raw deal and could have got something from the game.

Well football manager look at things differently, they discount the easy chances the other team miss and focus on their teams misses. It's true to say we had chances, but we couldn't put the ball in the back of net and that's what counts. If we have a plan and hold the home team to 0-0 after an hour, we just might nick one late on in the game. With this in mind will Fergie have young Matty Shevlin on the bench, coming on in last third of the game, the youngster could swing it for us.

But if we know Fergie, it will just the same old panel of players and he'll be  hoping for a miracle, but we are afraid he's going to be disappointed. He always says the players train well, but when they get out on the field, they seldom perform well, hopefully tonight they didn't train well and maybe they'll up their game tomorrow night. We'll be there to record it for posterity, hoping for a United victory to take us the Wasps league cup final, so come on Sky Blues, lets shag those Ducks!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jack Frost!

The weather may play a big part in deciding if United go to Fermanagh, on Tuesday next on the back of a win against the 'hatchet men of Crusaders. The weather forecasters tell us that it will freeze tonight but should be dry tomorrow. But will the notorious Showgrounds pitch thaw out in time for the visit of the Crues, only time will tell. Cookie should be available for selection tomorrow having served his one match ban and maybe Fergie will come up with a plan to stop our leaking of goals.

Make no mistake about it, we are the underdogs tomorrow, the Crues have stuttered a bit after trouncing north Belfast rivals, Chickenville, but they are still in 4th place. But as has been proved no later than tonight, anybody can beat anybody in this league, when bottom club Warrenpoint Town, beat league leaders Portadown to toss the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. Will Fergie try to play defensive tactics against the the men of Tigers Bay? In short we don't know, but we are short on personnel anyway and really short on defenders and midfield tacklers.

Will he add our new sensation , striker Matty Shevlin, to his panel or is he keeping him for Tuesday night's game against the Ducks. We totally agree that Matty shouldn't be exposed to the rigours of Premier league football, week in  and week out, but neither should he be wrapped in cotton wool. There's an old saying, 'if you're good enough, you're old enough' and that young man has the physique and know how to look after himself against the hatchet men. We don't think he should start, heaven forbid, but he should be among the subs, if we need to call upon him.

There's to be a new turnstile in operation for fans using the car park behind the home stand, it's to be situated at the Fisherwick end of the home stand, adjacent to Block A. Disabled fans can still use the reception area and the lift to the home stand, but all other able-bodied fans must use the new turnstile, health & safety gone mad, we think. Don't forget to read Omar's column about the season so far, entitled Topsy Turvy, it sums our season so far. We only hope the forecasters have got it correct and tomorrow will break nice and sunny and thawing, so come on Sky Blues, lets shag those paper tigers!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Shore Up!

What can we say, we leave for our winter break to the sun and United collapse and undo all the work they previously done, in one fell swoop. We gather it wasn't a pleasant watch last Saturday and for the second time this year, we were undone by a corner, given by the referee, that wasn't a corner and then the smelly stuff hit the fan. Rusty Ray informed us that Tippers should have had a hat-trick in the first-half and we had several other chances.

But its goals that count, on the plus side we only lost 3 points and we think we managed not to pick up any other injuries, which always will be a plus for a team decimated with injuries. Still we haven't a clue who Spike will opt to stand in for the suspended Cookie. Will it be Marky, or does he drop Captain Jenks back or try Mike Ruddy again, as he has done before. The one thing's for sure, he can't afford to let Linfield pick holes in our defence like Chickenville did last week.

The IFA team are not firing on all cylinders, but they're still grinding out results and they are firmly entrenched in the top six, so they'll not be a pushover by any means. But United have to bounce back after last Saturday's collapse and they'll never be a better time to do it. Linfield are not the invincible team they were, but they still manage to ground out wins against us and they'll no doubt be looking for the same result tomorrow.

But we must put our last mishap behind us and the players owe us a favour and we at 'Sport hope to see every player trying his eye-strings out. Then and then, could we hope to gain anything from this difficult game. Its two and half years since we beat Linfield in the league, in the first game of the 2012 season, with two Jamie Davidson goals, it would be nice to repeat the dose. But Jamie is no longer available, so somebody else will have to step up to the plate.

Who will it be we wonder, we cannot see Spike starting Matty Shevlin, who was an unused sub last week, but what other secret weapon have we got in our panel. With the all the will in the world we cannot see Tippers or Darboy rise to the occasion, but who knows? We don't know and we don't care who it is, but we need him/them really badly. Maybe it will be our manager's boy, now wouldn't that be a turn up for the books, so come on Sky Blues, let's shag those Belfast sheep!