Opinion: Defensive woes overshadowed fine goals tally for United

Neal Gawley's goal against Ballinamallard on Saturday took Ballymena United's tally for the season past 90. Picture: Press Eye.
Neal Gawley's goal against Ballinamallard on Saturday took Ballymena United's tally for the season past 90. Picture: Press Eye.

There’s been a fair bit of wailing, gnashing of teeth and venting of spleen done in this column over the course of the season.

Referees, tactics, poor performances, finances and lots more - they’ve all got a touch over the past nine months.

So I thought for the penultimate column of the season, I would bring some levity to proceedings by talking about the very subject that draws us to football in the first place...goals.

What has gone on at Ballymena’s defensive end of the pitch has already been well aired. The sad thing is that it has overshadowed a very good season on the goalscoring front at the other end of the field,

For a team that traditionally averages annual tallies in the high-50s or low 60s, United’s total of 91 goals in all competitions is their best return since plundering 122 in the first division promotion season of 2002-3.

If someone had said, with one league game left, Ballymena would have scored two goals less than Linfield in the league, most people would have taken that.

Ballymena’s goal tally is top six material, yet so often the proficiency of the attacking players has been undone by chaos at the other end.

It’s one of those ‘what if’ scenarios where you wonder what Ballymena might have achieved had they only conceded a ‘normal’ amount of goals over the season.

The flip side, of course, is where would United be if they HADN’T scored so many goals? The stats say they have the second worst defensive record in the division - who’s to say they wouldn’t have been down around the relegation play-off place?

But it’s not just the quantity of United’s goals that has stood out - the quality has been top-notch as well.

Darren Boyce weighed in with a couple of spectacular strikes while, around the early part of 2015, David Cushley launched a one-man onslaught to get onto UEFA’s Ballon d’Or shortlist!

But my personal favourite remains Neal Gawley’s run and sumptuous cross, met with a thumping diving header from Matthew Tipton, way back in August at Dungannon - a great attacking team goal.

Maybe there’s time left for someone to trump that in this Saturday’s final game - but Glenn Ferguson’s bigger concern will be how to stop the flow at the other end next season.

* Follow Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)