Opinion: Result, not display, all that matters on ‘derby day’

Ballymena United supporters relished their team's weekend victory at rivals Coleraine. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United supporters relished their team's weekend victory at rivals Coleraine. Picture: Press Eye.

There can’t be many table-topping sides after a quarter of any league campaign whose leading scorers have just three goals.

Conversely, there won’t be too many sides who, just a couple of months into the season have had 12 different players hit the net.

Therein lies one of the secrets of Ballymena United’s unexpected start to the Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

It certainly hasn’t been a one-man show - far from it, in fact.

When they have really needed it on occasions this season, Ballymena have managed to come up with a goal by some means - sometimes from the most unlikely of sources.

You’d have got lengthy odds on Michael Ruddy heading the winner in Saturday’s ‘derby’ victory - yet it was almost in keeping with the improbable nature of the start of United’s season.

In the last five years - and particularly since the start of Oran Kearney’s tenure - ‘derby’ games against Coleraine have been the footballing equivalent of having teeth pulled for Ballymena fans.

But, such is the way that football moves in cycles, it’s currently Ballymena’s turn to enjoy the ascendancy in the fixture - even on occasions like Saturday where only the most hardened Sky Blues fan would have the brass neck to claim they deserved it.

It was a victory that fell very much into the Dick Turpin-esque category but what could be more satisfying in a match against your fiercest rivals than being outplayed and still winning?

When you consider that Coleraine put the ball past Dwayne Nelson on no less than four occasions, only for Ballymena defenders to get back to clear off the goal-line, then you have to admit it was simply one of those days where United copped all the breaks.

Ballymena’s own performance was anything but that of a table-topping side

Every week you continue to learn more about this Ballymena side, not least the backbone that now exists within the squad.

That will serve Ballymena well in the inevitable sticky periods that will lie ahead; you simply can’t play well every week and if you’re still keeping the points tally ticking over when you’re not at your best, it can’t be a bad thing.

Saturday’s win capped a very pleasing weekend for the club, coming on the back of David Cushley’s contract extension.

Not only does it ensure the Ballymena will enjoy the services of one of their star players, the fact that it has been agreed now spares any unnecessary disruption for the player and the club.

Make no mistake, had the situation dragged on over the coming weeks and months, the closer it came to the last six months of his contract - the trigger for other clubs to legally register their interest in the player - the louder the whisper would have become and the more unsettled the player could have become.

It’s something that Glenn Ferguson will doubtless have in his mind with regard to several more of the raft of United players whose present deals expire at the end of this season.

The team that Ferguson has painstakingly moulded over the past two-and-a-half years is beginning to make progress - and the last thing the manager will want is for his hard work to be undone by his team being dismantled. Cushley’s signature is a very good first step in the right direction.

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