Opinion: Ballymena off the pace in hunt for top six position

Allan Jenkins celebrates his equaliser for Ballymena United in Saturday's draw with Portadown - but the Sky Blues will have to pick up points more regularly if they are to achieve a top six place in the Danske Bank Premiership. Picture: Pacemaker Press.
Allan Jenkins celebrates his equaliser for Ballymena United in Saturday's draw with Portadown - but the Sky Blues will have to pick up points more regularly if they are to achieve a top six place in the Danske Bank Premiership. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

A casual glance at the Danske Bank Premiership table at the weekend forced me to do a bit of a double-take.

It wasn’t so much Ballymena United’s position that prompted my surprise - seeing the Sky Blues in a mid-table position is hardly an earth-shattering development, given the clubs’ recent history.

Instead, what caught my eye was the number of games played.

There’s a natural tendency in football to think of the turn of the calendar year as being the natural midway point of the season.

It may be a campaign that lasts 38 matches but the real crux of the matter is what happens at the 33-game point - the stage at which the ‘split’ - love it or loathe it - takes place.

That means we’re now over the midway point in what might be considered the ‘regular season’ - where all teams play each other three times before breaking into two mini divisions.

Ballymena have traditionally finished the 38-game season, since the current format was introduced, somewhere in and around the 45-50 points mark.

The reality, for any side aspiring to reach the top six, is that they would realistically need to have that sort of tally on the board by the 33-game cut-off point.

We’ve seen a couple of times in recent seasons who a great run of form over those last fives games can give a somewhat skewed review of a team’s season.

It can also lead to that nonsensical situation where the team at the top of the bottom six - who have perhaps amassed a lot of points against weaker sides - finishes with more points than the team at the bottom of the top six, who has struggled against the top teams.

Either way, Ballymena’s current points tally of 19 points from 17 games would appear to be some way short of the pace.

It will certainly require a strong run from Ballymena between games 18-33 if they are to avoid finishing among the also rans for the sixth year in a row.