BALLYMENA'S top female footballers this week cried foul over the pitch furore which has threatened their chances of national success.
Ballymena United Allstars are “gutted” at losing their traditional 'home' of pitch three at the Showgrounds due to maintenance work at all the Warden Street complex's pitches.
Now the girls feel that the switch to a new venue - finding a suitable location is already proving a difficult task in itself - could overshadow the club's chances of glory after its best ever start to a season.
Now the girls have called in local MLA Ian Paisley Jnr to fight their corner as frustration grows over the club's lack of a permanent pitch, just weeks after the Council undertook extensive renovations to the Showgrounds second pitch.
The Allstars ended eight years of struggling for survival when they amalgamated with local senior side Ballymena United earlier this year.
“We thought that only good times lay ahead when that happened but, although the support from Ballymena United has been unquestionable, unfortunately that hasn't been the case,” said Allstars manager Lawrie Philpott.
“The Council has told us that all the pitches at the Showgrounds are unavailable and that the only pitch on offer in the whole of Ballymena is Lamont Park, at Smithfield.
“The state of this pitch is, quite frankly, a disgrace and would be embarrassing for the only ladies' team to play on.
“As the Allstars are now part of the United set-up, it is only reasonable that they should play at the Showgrounds.
“The members of the team are appalled and gutted by the treatment of the Council.
“This is our best season in years - we are unbeaten in our first seven league games - and if we win the league, we go on to represent the league in Europe.
“Having no fixed abode to play home matches is unsettling and could cause major upset and affect the girls' chances of winning the league,” added Lawrie.
The Allstars are due to play Glenavon at home in a cup match tonight (Wednesday) but they have been unable to tell the opposition where they will play. This has caused concern among the league committee as the Allstars are registered to play their home games at the Showgrounds and are unable to give a definite venue to fulfil home fixtures.
Brigid Black, of Ballymena Borough Council, admitted that finding a resolution to the problem was proving difficult.
“The ladies' season runs over the summer months which is unfortunate because all of our maintenance work takes place at the same time.
“We are trying to accommodate the Allstars as best we can with what we can. As well as the Smithfield pitch, they have been offered a pitch at Waveney which they are currently considering.
“One possibility for next year might be staggering the maintenance on the pitches at the Showgrounds but I appreciate that isn't much help to them at present,” added Brigid.