Opinion: Post-Shield hangover rearing its ugly head again for United

Ballymena's Allan Jenkins in action with Coleraine's Howard Beverland during Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership game at the Showgrounds. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena's Allan Jenkins in action with Coleraine's Howard Beverland during Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership game at the Showgrounds. Picture: Press Eye.

If we learned one thing from Friday night’s debacle, it was how long the goodwill generated by Ballymena’s County Antrim Shield win lasted.

United lifted the Shield on January 12; by the twelfth day of February it might as well never have happened because it already seems as though it was from a bygone era.

Despite Glenn Ferguson’s insistence that there would be no post-Shield hangover, a la 2012, that is exactly what is happening once again.

Since that Shield triumph at Windsor Park, United have managed a laboured win over Carrick followed by three successive optimism-crushing defeats.

The common thread that links all four games is that the performances have been dismal - not just my view but the summation of Ferguson in his post-match press conferences over the past month.

However, Friday night’s defeat by Coleraine plumbed new depths of mediocrity. It was the sort of nonsense which will go down in infamy in the context of the ‘derby’ fixture.

You can certainly imagine Coleraine supporters in 10 or 20 years’ time saying: “Remember the night we won at Ballymena with nine men, without getting out of first gear?”

The nature of the goals Ballymena conceded were, predictably enough, completely avoidable but it was what happened after the quickfire double dismissals of Sammy Morrow and Mark Edgar that saw the scorn of United’s fans heaped upon the players and management.

In all the years I’ve watched football, at all levels of the game, I can’t ever recall seeing a team as utterly devoid of ideas of what to do when faced with a numerical advantage of not one but two players, as Ballymena were on Friday night.

At a time when it needed Ballymena to throw the kitchen sink at their stunned opponents, the Sky Blues’ feeble efforts certainly surprised Coleraine’s players, if their post-match comments were anything to go by.

What makes it all the more galling is that, as recently as Ballymena’s previous home match, they were given a brilliant and ruthless exhibition by Linfield of how to play against less than a full complement of opposing players, following Tony Kane’s red card.

Instead of moving the ball quickly and stretching the nine men, Ballymena’s build-up was hesitant, playing the back across the back and only on a couple of occasions getting into wide areas to put crosses into the box.

It was the utter ineffectiveness at dealing with the situation, more so even than the result itself, that led to the chorus of boos and cat-calls from home fans at the final whistle - many of whom would have been halfway home but for the restrictions placed upon fans as part of the security arrangements for the game.

Events on the pitch, along with those off it in the build-up to the game made it another chastening evening at the Showgrounds - how often have we said that this season?