Opinion: Boxing Day success gives cause for optimism in 2015

Matthew Tipton forces home the winning goal for Ballymena United in the Boxing Day win over Coleraine. Picture: Pacemaker.
Matthew Tipton forces home the winning goal for Ballymena United in the Boxing Day win over Coleraine. Picture: Pacemaker.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly fortunes can change in football.

Just a few short weeks ago you would have found turkeys with a greater enthusiasm for the Christmas period than Ballymena United supporters.

Yet a run of three successive wins - including the small matter of a Boxing Day classic - and all suddenly seems a lot more positive for the Sky Blues as 2015 approaches.

It shouldn’t come as any great surprise to United supporters. Glenn Ferguson’s tenure - he celebrates three years in charge at the Showgrounds on New Year’s Eve - has been punctuated with lengthy runs of struggling for form, followed by completely contrary sequences of good results.

There’s no doubt the highs have been high and the lows have been positively underground. Thankfully, Boxing Day fell into the former category - a truly memorable occasion that was another one in the eye for detractors of Irish League football.

It was by no means free-flowing football but in terms of a gripping, edge-of-the-seat spectacle, it was hard to beat.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched Ballymena fall behind in matches this season but this time there was no dramatic crumble.

United showed tremendous fighting spirit and deserved the lucky break they got when Michael Doherty’s clanger gifted Allan Jenkins a goal before Matthew Tipton delivered the coup de grace late on.

Tipton’s return of 13 goals before the turn of the year is impressive. He was written off as ‘injury prone’ in some quarters before a ball was kicked, yet he is the only Ballymena player to have featured in every single game to date this season.

An attendance figure of 2,500 was healthy in Irish League terms but a quick look at hundreds of empty seats in both stands is ample evidence that the imposition of ticketing for this fixture is the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

But enough of this nonsense after a positive end to 2014. Let’s hope for much more of the same in the new year.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena).