Opinion: Points on board more important than how they come

Ballymena United captain Allan Jenkins is congratulated by team mates after scoring his team's second goal against Institute. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United captain Allan Jenkins is congratulated by team mates after scoring his team's second goal against Institute. Picture: Press Eye.

If you believe the title of Bananarama and Fun Boy Three’s 1980s hit song, ‘it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it’.

As admirable as that sentiment is, it doesn’t really cut the mustard as far as Ballymena United are concerned.

Quite the opposite in fact; it’s all about getting the result - how it is achieved is largely immaterial. Saturday’s victory over Institute was a classic case in point

Manager Glenn Ferguson had spoken of the need for his players to “grow up” but for the first 25 minutes, there was very little evidence of the ease with which United would eventually win.

Ferguson summed it up perfectly in his post-match press conference when he surmised that Ballymena have played better on plenty of occasions this season and lost.

For the first quarter of the game Ballymena could barely get a kick against an Institute side whose eagerness to move the ball quickly manifested itself in a tendency to over-play, particularly near Ballymena’s penalty area.

Once Gary McCutcheon tucked home the opening goal from the penalty spot, Institute rarely looked like winning, although Ballymena’s second and third goals were well-worked down their right flank, where Jim Ervin and Eamon McAllister showed a good understanding.

Quite a number of people had remarked to me during the week that they hadn’t been aware of the run of three wins in their last 19 league fixtures - a statistic which, of course, stretched to 20 games after the disappointing midweek defeat by Glentoran.

But that is symptomatic of United’s season - after that terrific opening, it has spluttered along, with the occasional high points which have helped give the impression that things were ticking over more nicely than they were in reality.

The league victories, rare as they have been in that period, generally had some significance to them which allowed supporters to take their eye off the bigger picture.

Against Ballinamallard, all the attention was on Matthew Shevlin’s record-breaking debut goal; the win against Institute at Drumahoe just before Christmas came in the same week as United had clinched a place in the League Cup final; and that win was followed up by the Boxing Day win over Coleraine, with all the hype that automatically creates.

To give that some sort of context, when Ballymena won at Coleraine in September, it took them to 17 points from their opening nine games.

Now, some 20 games later, they currently sit on 33 points - and that includes Saturday’s victory!

It graphically illustrates the downward spiral which Ballymena went into and yet, because of all the other positives that were going on in knockout competitions, only a small percentage of United’s supporters actually grasped just how bad the situation was.

One thing to come out of Saturday’s game again is that Allan Jenkins remains Ferguson’s ‘go to’ player for so many reasons. The manager admits that the Scot is the player he is most likely to turn to to fill in for Matthew Tipton’s role in leading the attack and the skipper, as with anything he is asked to do in a Ballymena shirt, does so with panache.

United are fortunate to have a player who can perform such an important role in so many different areas of the pitch.

It’s not only a matter of his all-action performances in midfield or his ability to chip in with goals if he has to play up front. Just watch the next time Ballymena are defending a set-piece how often it’s Jenkins’ head that meets the ball with a powerful clearing header.

And yet you still hear comments from Ballymena fans on matchdays exhorting their captain to do more - there seems to be a perception that because he has played in the Scottish Premier League that he ought to be scoring a hat-trick every week, while also making three goal-line clearances at the other end. I suspect that when the day eventually comes that Jenkins is no longer at the club, those same detractors will yearn for a player with his attributes.

Jenkins’ goal on Saturday means he has now become the fourth Ballymena player to reach double figures in goals this season.

Given that it’s the first time since 2010 that more than one Ballymena player has managed that feat, United’s goalscoring exploits this season have been fairly exceptional - with that sort of firepower, it just makes you wonder what might have been achieved this season but for the defensive catastrophes at the other end.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)