Sky Blue Sport News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Black'n Blue!

United go into this game against the Irish cup holders, brimming with confidence, as they sit proudly at the head of the Dankse Bank Premier table with 10 points from their four matches. Having played two teams from the bottom six of last season, Point and the Swifts and two teams from the top six last season, they now come up against another top six team in Glenavon. Games between these two are hard to predict, excepting the first game of the season in the last campaign, where Glenavon had the upper hand, they're are usually decided by the odd goal. Not always, if memory serves us correctly,  we seem to remember, back in the days before floodlighting, a 5 all draw.

But we think that will not be the scenario tomorrow night, its far likely to be a 2-1, or 3-2 scoreline and we will stick our neck out and say United will be victorious at the end of 90 minutes. With the news that Tippers is fit and the further news that Kyley has trained all week, we will be further boosted by the return of Tony Kane and new signing, Mack (McCaul). We at 'Sport haven't been worrying over Tippers fitness, sure we have another ready replacement in Darboy, if Tippers feels the slightest twinge. Will Spike forego his usual strategy and start Kyley, even though he hasn't at least had one reserve game under his belt. or has he, we don't honestly know and that's a fact.

It will be a tough game and we have a fairly good referee in charge in Raymond Hetherington, who likes to let the game flow, but he's not afraid to take action when needs be. A United win should leave them with at least a four point cushion, depending on the result of Coleraine/Ports game. also on Friday night, until the bulk of the teams play on Saturday. We aren't contemplating a draw or a defeat, we are only focused on the win, but maybe we will have to settle for a point, if so, then we have to live with that. Glenavon have plenty of firepower, in Bates, Bradley, Braniff and player-manager, Hamilton, but we have the players to nullify that, they will have stop our attack and no-ones been able to do that just  yet. We look forward to an interesting encounter, come on Sky Blues, lets shag those Mourneviwers!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another Skin!

When United met QUB in the Irish cup semi-final last season, it looked like a 'banana skin' waiting to trip then up and United gave them the respect of fielding a full strength side and triumphed with enough to do. The same could be said for tomorrow night's opponents, Newington Y C, who United meet in the Wasp Solutions league cup, kick-off 19-45. A lot of people expect Spike to make wholesale changes, but we at 'Sport would caution him and remind of what happened last season, in this very round of the league cup, when Ballymoney United almost left him with a red face.

Tony Kane and Thommo, haven't kicked a ball in earnest this season before an outing with the reserves on Saturday, courtesy of a 3 match suspension for getting sent-off in the Irish cup final. So we at Sky Blue Sport, would expect them to play some part in the match, as well as Archie and Alan D. The game we suspect will come too soon for Kyley, but Sparky and possibly new signing Brian McCaul, hereafter known as Mack, could make the bench. This match is about winning, we don't care what system we use, just about the result, so come sky Blues, lets shag those paper tiger cubs!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dun Again!

United travel to Dungannon tomorrow, to take on the Swifts and we think we might be right in saying it's the first time in the history of that fixture, that both teams are unbeaten and are in the top five places in the league table, first and fifth, respectfully. It's early days we know, but a win for the Sky Blues and the other results go their way, we could open a 2 or 3 points gap. but lets not get ahead of ourselves, there's a dangerous banana skin in the shape Darren Murphy and our former player Liggie, to negotiate round. Murphy and his team will no doubt be buoyed by that result last week, when they went to Mourneview Park and skelped Irish Cup winners, Glenavon, by 2-0.

We imagine Darren saying to his team, same again, much as his counterpart, Spike's, saying to his United side,' carry on where you left off last Saturday against Portadown'. In the end we only beat the Ports by the slimmest of margins, 3-2, but in truth it wasn't that close, as we frittered chance after easy chance and nearly paid the penalty. New signing. Brian McCaul, is not expected to start, but what do we know, he could start if he proves to Spike and the boys, he's fit. In the absence of Stephen Alexander, away on holiday to an exotic location, sports news has been fairly non-existent, so we don't have a clue whether Brian has a chance of playing or indeed making the bench.

As usual we are in the dark about team news. Is Kyley fit, or is Cookie or Archie going to partner JT  at the centre of defence? Or Spike, might move Marky to centre half and bring back Tony Kane, now that his suspension is complete. Will Spike be tempted to start Darboy up front at the expense of Tippers, or will he persevere with the former Linfield player, who has yet to score a competitive goal for United, as he was scoring them for fun in friendlies.  Darboy broke his duck last Saturday, despite never having started a match this term and in his second game off the subs bench, he didn't even get a run out at Seaview. The barber seems certain to play, as does Ally, in fact we will be surprised if there's any changes, other than that in defence, if big Kyley does not make it.

We at 'Sport  expect a hard game, it always is at Stangmore. Darren Murphy believes in putting it to the opposition, but we got to expect that, there's no easy games in this league. Results between these teams last season went in United's favour (4-1) and except for the Irish cup game, were won by the odd goal.  If United find their shooting boots, they could repeat that Irish cup score, but we think its likely to be 2-1 or 3-2. We had Tim 'nice but dim' Marshall, as ref last week and we have another weak one in Ross Dunlop, officiating tomorrow, so we can't expect any help from that quarter. Games between our selves and the Swifts don't tend to meaty encounters, but there's always a bit needle in them, which makes for an interesting game. So come on Sky Blues, let's shag those chicken farmers!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ports Downers!

It may seem an unlikely headline, but that's what we need to do tomorrow, we need to take the Ports down. They seemed to be worried, why else would they start a foolish rumour about them making a bid for United's talisman, David Cushley. It has been proved to be unfounded, but these rumours have a chance of unsettling the opposition, as people are notorious for saying things like, 'no smoke without fire', but this time it's only smoke. We at 'Sport will make a prediction, if Cush 'ever' wants to move, we expect Portadown to be the last place he ends up at.

Not that has any hatred for Ports, it's just not on his wavelength, we would say the only club that might prise away from the high country is, Linfield, but he's already turned down a move there, for he's Sky Blue through and through and we love him. Instead of unsettlingly Cush, he's liable to have 'a man of the match' display, like he did last Saturday, for he is magic. We haven't heard anything about injuries, but Alan D was substituted 4 mins into the 2nd half on Wednesday night, but maybe this was a tactical ploy and it certainly turned out to be when the man who replaced Alan, the much maligned Gavin Taggart, scored a peach of goal to draw United level with the hatchet men at one apiece.

If Alan D is not fit, will Fergie start Gavin or maybe he's inclined to go 'head to head' with old Ronnie and select Darboy and Tippers for their first outing this campaign. We know it seems like a foolhardy tactic, but we need to put doubt in the old fox's head and not let him dictate the tactics. Ports reportedly have four players available for their first game of the season, but we wouldn't think old Ronnie will bring in all four to his starting line-up. He's far likelier to start two of them and bring the other two on later if need be, but we need to be up for that and most of our panel have two games under their belt and are match fit, unlike the returning Ports four, who haven't kicked a ball in earnest and believe us, that does make a difference.

The four goals scored at Seaview, all came from set-pieces and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two tomorrow from set-pieces, so we will have to be on our toes. We have an early lead in the Dankse Bank Premiership (alphabetical) and it would be nice to consolidate that position tomorrow, but at this early juncture, results are what matter and we might have to settle for another draw tomorrow, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. Sky Blues new boy, Tippers, could be our 'ace in the hole' as he comes up against one of his former clubs and he would dearly like to lower their colours, we echo that. It's going to tough, we have a weak referee in Tim Marshall, so we must be focused, come on Sky Blues, lets shag those apple pickers!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Same Again!

Reading between the lines, if such a thing were possible, United manager Glenn Ferguson was hinting that if Neal Gawley was passed fit and all the other players showed no ill effects after Saturday's victory against the Point, he would consider starting the same team again. It seems Tony and Thommo will miss another two matches and both will no be in line for starting until the tie away to Dungannon on 23 August. We don't know any details of what the two extra days suspension are for, violent conduct or for reaching a penalty points aggregate, but our informant, Red, confirmed that they are not available for selection until the Dungannon tie.

There's been a lot of concern among the Sky Blue Sport's team about the make-up of our central midfield pairing,  the two Alans. They are vulnerable to the counter-attack and the Crues under Mister Ugly are the team to exploit this soft heart in our team. But Spike likes their attacking play and he's prepared to let them carry on, at least until Tony and Thommo are free of suspension and available for selection once again. The Crues will no doubt try to unsettle our defence with long balls played to Owens and Adamson, with the poisoned dwarf, looking for any crumbs that come his way. For that reason we need to on our game from the start, no pussyfooting around.

If Gawley doesn't make it, will Spike promote Darboy or change his formation to include Mike Ruddy or Gavin or Sparky? We have given up trying to second guess our Spike, when we just figure we have him down to a pat, he surprises us by making a wholly unexpected selection, liking playing a reserve team player we never have heard tell of. We got his selection correct at the cup final, but boy do we regret that and we'll not tempt fate by saying what his line-up is going to be tomorrow night. With Andrew Davy, refereeing the game, we hope he's not as lenient as we heard he was in the Charity Shield final, at the least sign of leniency the hatchets will get stuck in. We hope for a point at least, so come Sky Blues, lets shag those paper tigers! 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hard Points!

Ballymena United start the Dankse Bank Premier league campaign tomorrow, with a hard game against Warrenpoint Town, hereafter known as the Point. We played the Point four times last season and the record shows that we had two victories apiece, but what the record doesn't show, is that our two victories came about as result of them playing at least half of 90 mins with ten men, having a player red carded in both games. When we had both 11 apiece, the Point won by 1-0 victories, so you see its going to be a tight game tomorrow.

To make matters worse for the home team, the referee appointed is none other than our old friend Colin Burns, who never gives us anything but his cold shoulder and seems to let the opposing team away with murder. Added to that, our longest serving player, Archie, is struggling to shake off an injury and has to be in the doubtful category. Does Fergie introduce latest recruit, Kyle McVey, to play alongside JT, or does he call on old reliable Cookie Munster? Mark McCullagh, will be needed to fill in at rightback for the suspended Tony Kane and Mike Ruddy, will be needed as back-up for Steeky McBride.

Spike was hinting at a change of tactics, this season, instead of 4,3,3, he wanted to play a 4,4,2 formation and two men up front, Darboy and Tipton. But for that to happen we at 'Sport think he would need to introduce at least one, 'out and out', wide man and we will need to play a tackler alongside Captain Jenks. With Thommo serving a one game ban as well as the afore mentioned Tony, we wont be surprised if Spike, nominates a midfield of Gawley (or Ally), Alan D, Jenks and Cush. This, in our opinion, would hand the initiative to the Point and could result in an embarrassing defeat in the first game of the season.

Better he pick Sparky or the even much maligned Gavin, they don't offer much going forward, but they aren't afraid to get stuck in where necessary, Gavin, maybe a wee bit too much. But this is an improvement to either Alan D or Captain Jenks, who couldn't tackle a fish supper. They're great at going forward, making forceful runs and backing up the two strikers, but they leave our midfield wide open for the opposition. Leave the midfield open tomorrow and we will pay a heavy price, keep it tight and maybe, just maybe, we can sneak a result, but its going to be close, so come Sky Blues, lets shag those Warrenpointers!

Monday, July 21, 2014

'Nother Friendly!!!

Yes we are to have another friendly tomorrow night, but unlike last Saturday's friendly against Oxford United Stars, this ones been advertised. We tried to get a statement from the club today, as to why they didn't inform United  fans about the game against Oxford United Stars, but our pleas were met by a deafening silence. Not a good press for the new board management, chairman and vice-chairman, but they put the blame firmly on the playing management team, e.g. Fergie and the three baldies. A man on the fringe of our management team, better known as Red, made the excuse that the team were a victim of circumstances beyond their control, due to opposing teams withdrawing at the last minute.

But we digress, we have a match tomorrow night at Tillysburn Park, Belfast, against the Welders, kick-off 19-30, we think. Welders are managed by  former Sky Blue central defender and free-kick specialists, Gary Smith and include in the their line-up ex-United man Michael McClellan, but we know him as MM. We don't have the foggiest notion if our manager, Spike, is going to treat this game seriously or are we going to go through the motions like we did against Bangor, where we turned up with only 12 fit players and not surprisingly lost. That the Welders so very nearly beat us in the 1st round of the Irish cup, surely Spike would know better than to go there half prepared'

We, the fans, expect nothing but a hard and committed performance from our team, not that insipid thing that those us that made the journey, witnessed at Clandeboye Park on the 10th July. According to the grapevine (three men overheard talking in a pub), Neal Lowry has severed his ties with the club and Jamie Davidson (remember him), has been seriously injured, again. Brian McCaul, that we had high hopes of signing, is considering a job offer to be Gary Twigg's assistant groundsman at Shamrock Park, Portadown.  If only Neal Lowry had gone sooner, we could have been in a positon to sign Brian on amateur forms, oh well, back to reality. The game tomorrow night will test us no doubt, but if we mean to consolidate our place in the league this season ,we need to start showing we mean business, COSB!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Six Days!

Yes its only six days to our first friendly game against Bangor at Clandeboye Park, we're sure everybody of a Sky Blue tradition is as excited as we are as this event approaches. Our manager says he is scouring the country to try and find the right blend of players, but so far as we know, he's only signed one, Matthew Tipton and supposedly our 'budget' is exhausted. Ironically we have another match on Thursday next at the same time as the Bangor fixture, v Desertmartin, but we have been assured that we have no difficulty in fulfilling both fixtures and the strongest team (note we didn't say the best team), will be at Bangor.

As Bangor is practically on the Sky Blue Sport's team doorstep (across Belfast lough), we will be taking in  the game. Sammy Patterson maybe be missing, as he prefers to watch the world cup instead of seeing United in their first friendly of the season, there's no pleasing some people. What are our hopes for the season, or better still what are our management teams hopes for the season? Omar was away in England for his Birthday, we'll not say his age, but suffice to say the swinging sixties is nearly over for him and was not able to attend the AGM, where some shareholder (we are told), congratulated the manager for getting to the Irish cup final and finishing 7th in the league.

Less said about that last comment the better, if we had won the Irish cup and/or finished in the top six in the league, we definitely would echo that congratulations, but we all agree with Omar's comments in his review of the season, that we are indeed marking time. As we didn't have a presence at the AGM, we aren't privy to what our manager said about the forthcoming season, but reading between the lines the shareholders seemed to be happy with progress so far and who are we to argue. Maybe the season ticket sales for this season will be up as the rank file fans flock to the Showgrounds for the coming season, we will be surprised, but you never know with our fickle fans.

We read with interest of how our dear neighbours, the Coleraine scum, have been saved by a group of fans (allegedly 120), investing in the club to the tune of £250,000 to date, that's right a quarter of a million pounds. We are sceptical of this report, mathematics has never been a scum tradition and they went into administration some years ago and two seasons ago they had to go cap in hand to the IFA to ask for a bail-out. Could a similar scheme, if true, work for United we ask? The people of the high country are not so free with their hard earned money and would need convincing, it'll be a hard sell we think, but worth looking into. Well its all go for the Bangor match, COSB, good luck in Desertmartin too, we can hardly wait,lol!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

News Update!

Just four short weeks have passed since the Sky Blues played their part in that debacle of an Irish cup final and our manager hasn't explained his thinking of what went wrong. He's released some players and re-signed some players, but the only player he's brought in, is a striker. In our humble opinion, we don't need a striker, what we do need is a complete midfielder or better still a complete midfield. So many of our midfielders including the much heralded Alan Jenkins, are one-dimensional players. None more so than Alan D, who only has slick passing skills, when he can be bothered to use them.

The stage was set for him in the Irish cup final, coming on to replace Darboy, with Fergie clutching at straws, but alas Alan was in no mood to grab the headlines and he was a virtual passenger, like a lot of our players on that day. Captain Jenks, in our opinion, runs about like a headless chicken, threatening to close opposing players down, but he never quite gets there. If he was to go out with all guns blazing, he might in fact win the ball, instead of being a nearly man. The less said about Gavin Taggart the better, United fans are blaming him for the first goal against Glenavon, it seems he shied away from the free-kick, but Gavin is only a ball-winner, his first move is back and he's a bit hot-headed.

Thommo is another one-dimensional player, he can make forceful runs, but he has little or no pace and he's a liability with his tackles, giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions. Then we come to the versatile Sparky, who's been tried in many positions, but his best position seems to be centre-midfield, alongside a passer like Jenks, because Sparky couldn't pass water. We will reserve judgement on Neal Gawley, whom Fergie seems to favour, but for the life of us, we cannot see why. The only midfielder we have, worthy of the name, is the fiery Tony Kane, he can tackle, pass and is the complete midfielder and he has a play anywhere sort of attitude and is not afraid to 'mix it' if need be.

So our manager should be scouring the country to try to find more players like Tony. Who's not afraid to lay their body on the line for the team, they'll pick up a few cautions no doubt, but it is in the nature of the 'beast' so to speak. Spike has hinted that he is thinking of changing our formation and playing 4,4,2. We at 'Sport think  he has to be on the look-out for a ball playing wing-man and he's missed one already, when Crues back-up to Paul Heately, one Eamon McAllister, joined Ards this week. But maybe Spike has somebody else in mind to supply the crosses for Darboy and Tipper, they're not going to score by their own play, they need somebody to do the hard graft for them. We'll endeavour to keep fans up to speed in the coming 10 weeks of the close season!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Heroes All!

The current United squad has a chance to write themselves into the history books tomorrow, when they take on Glenavon in the Irish cup final at Windsor Park, Belfast. kick-off 2-30pm. The historic 1989 team were the guests of honour at the Des Allen suite, at the clubs end of season dinner last Saturday night. That they're still heroes in the eyes of Sky Blue fans, bears testament of what the Irish cup means to everybody associated with United. So a win for the current squad would lead to cult status in footballing terms.

The entire Sky Blue Sports team is adamant that they will do it, they saw the writing on the wall early, when Thommo scored our winner against the Welders. Then we were drawn against Linfield at Windsor Park and Thommo again delivered, setting up Darboy and he found our talisman Cush and the rest is history as they say. In a quirk of fate, Thommo may not get selected, as he has been out injured and only returned to play 30 minutes on Easter Tuesday.

But that's the thing about having a good squad of players, when somebody's injured, somebody else steps up to the plate. In our semi-final against QUB, at the Oval, we got an unlikely hero in Alan D, but if Thommo's fit, we at 'Sport think Alan D, will have to settle for a place on the bench. The same fate looks likely to befall Archie, who picked up a groin injury in our semi-final win at the Oval and we think Cookie Munster will get the nod and maybe play his last match in a Sky Blue Jersey.

Our keeper, Shan, 29 years-old, had never played in a semi-final before he signed for us and he will get to play in his first final tomorrow. It's a complete mystery to the 'Sport's team, how his undoubted talent was overlooked for so long, when great keepers are as scarce as hens teeth, we owe a huge debt to former keeper Dermot O'Neill for unearthing Shans talent and pointing us in the right direction, when we were in dire straits, with both our keepers out on long term injuries.

Lets not forget a grudging thanks to big fat DJ who released Jimer and let him join us, he did live to regret that and the diving bird, Oran Kearney, for doing the same with Darboy. These three players, Shan, Jimer and Darboy have contributed to the turnaround in our fortunes and our management team  deserves a lot of credit for sticking their collective necks out at transfer window. Despite all our urgings to the contrary, Fergie has stayed true to his 4,3,3 policy and we expect he'll stick with it tomorrow .

Or he could spring a surprise and deploy Archie playing in front of the back four, but we feel that would be tantamount to handing the advantage to the tramp and his cohorts. No, we expect Spike to sink or swim with his tried and trusted formula, he's a great believer in, 'if its not broke, don't try to fix it'. As if we didn't need  anymore incentives, we have found we have a turncoat in the Glenavon camp, one Nigel Law, who used to coach our under-16 team, but he's the enemy tomorrow.

Our former manager Roy Walker, used to say 'only believe', but we only believed and were let down time and time again. But we have raised this catchphrase again and we believe the cup is ours. We got our name on it when we beat the Welders and we've never looked back since, so come on United, lets shag those Mourneviewers, lets all do the bouncey and put our name on the Irish cup, where we know it belongs. 'She wore, she wore, she wore a Sky Blue ribbon in the merry month of May and when I asked her why she wore that ribbon, she said it's for United and I'm with them all the way, all the , all the way...etc!!!!!!!