Opinion: Super September sets United up for tough tests ahead

Matthew Tipton celebrates after opening the scoring for Ballymena United in Saturday's 2-1 win at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.
Matthew Tipton celebrates after opening the scoring for Ballymena United in Saturday's 2-1 win at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.

You’ve just got to chuckle to yourself about the irony of some situations that sometimes arise in footballing circles.

Ballymena United hosts its first corporate lunch of the season this Saturday, before the home game against Crusaders.

In a change to the normal format, there isn’t a guest speaker but instead, David Jeffrey will carry out a question and answer session with Jackie Fullerton.

The former Linfield manager’s interviewee slot was finalised early in the season, while Ballymena United were in the depths of their worst start to a campaign for 60 years.

There was more than one person suggested to me that, come October, David Jeffrey might well be at the Showgrounds, but in an entirely different chair to the one he will occupy this Saturday.

That seat remains very much filled by Glenn Ferguson who, not for the first time in his Showgrounds tenure, has managed to ride out a storm of poor results by embarking upon a sequence of favourable ones, the latest of them coming at Warrenpoint on Saturday.

I haven’t heard anyone suddenly trumpeting Ballymena as title contenders on the back of an unbeaten run of seven games - it’s a ridiculous notion which has no basis in terms of recent history.

But by the same token, when the boot was on the other foot in August and Ballymena couldn’t buy a result, was there any merit in the near hysteria of the opening weeks with the season in its infancy?

While the first two performances - in particular the mauling by Glenavon - were more Dog and Duck standard than Danske Bank Premiership, there was a gradual improvement in performances, which wasn’t matched by results, over the next couple of games which was enough to suggest that there would come a turning point, which turned out to be the 3-1 win at Glentoran.

I always marvel at the remarkable confidence-boosting properties that a victory brings in football. Quite often you see a team who couldn’t beat snow off a rope for weeks suddenly get an overdue win and off they go.

Saturday’s win was a not unfamiliar scenario of Ballymena making a situation in which they were coasting, suddenly look more difficult than it should have been but in the end, Ballymena were worthy winners.

You can see the number of improved individual performances having a cumulative effect on the team’s display as a whole.

The fixture list for October - with Saturday’s visit of the champions followed by back-to-back league trips to mid-Ulster - has examinations written all over it but there’s no doubt Ballymena are better equipped to tackle it now than they would have been a month ago.

While David Jeffrey will answer questions this Saturday, the man some observers a month ago were tipping him to replace has answered a few of his own, in a different sense.