Opinion: United must put latest Windsor woe behind them for season-defining tie

Ballymena United players celebrate David Cushley's goal against Linfield last Saturday. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

Ballymena United players celebrate David Cushley's goal against Linfield last Saturday. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

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If following the fortunes of Ballymena United is no easy ticket for supporters, then Windsor Park must be the ultimate House of Pain.

In m ore than a quarter of a century of both supporting and reporting on the Sky Blues, I reckon I could count the number of times I’ve seen Ballymena win at the national stadium on the fingers of one hand - literally.

That also includes ‘neutral venue’ games such as semi-finals and finals - a statistic underpinned by two cup final defeats at Windsor within the last eight months.

But even that mediocre record pales into insignificance when you consider United’s appalling record in league games at Windsor with just two championship wins at Linfield in the past quarter-century.

For a time on Saturday, it looked as though that sorry statistic might change after David Cushley tested the strength of the netting at the Kop end for the second Saturday in a row with another blockbuster.

For a man who hadn’t scored a career goal at Windsor up until the same weekend two years ago, Cushley has developed something of a taste for it since and his thunderbolt of a shot on Saturday possibly even trumped his second goal in last weekend’s final.

It was surprising then, that Cushley was the United player closest to the ball for Linfield’s equaliser when his momentary hesitation in his defensive role was pounced upon by Grant McCann for the equaliser.

Ross Clarke’s winner was a fine strike but Ferguson, rightly, wasn’t happy about the space the Linfield player was able to manufacture in order to get his shot away.

With United’s hopes of making the top six in the league now in the last rites stage, it makes Ballymena’s Irish Cup visit to Cliftonville this week all the more significant. Win and United’s season gets new impetus but a defeat would consign this campaign to the dustbin.

* Follow Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)