Belfast Telegraph

Neal Gawley has a plan to cut the Crues down to size

By Billy Weir

Neal Gawley hopes to be a cut above for Ballymena United this season, which is handy because the winger is a barber by trade. The 28-year-old got off to a flying start for the Sky Blues last Saturday with a superb strike to help seal victory over Warrenpoint Town.

It has been a stop-start time thus far for Gawley at Warden Street, the former Glentoran man, if you excuse the pun, trimming himself off Glenn Ferguson's panel last season so he could start up his business in Lisburn.

Returning last Christmas, Gawley eventually made it back into the squad and earned a place on the bench for United's Irish Cup final defeat by Glenavon.

But with a pre-season under his belt, Gawley is now back in full swing, celebrating his goal in some style on Saturday with a somersault that was more Commonwealth Games than Irish League.

And he hopes that United will be head over heels again tonight when they tackle Crusaders, although more acrobatics may be curtailed on the carpet at Seaview.

"I usually do that when I score decent goals, not for tap-ins, so hopefully there will be a few more to come," he smiled.

"Hopefully I have a good, steady season, injury-free and stay in the team."

That will mean someone else having to fill the breach and lop off the follicles of Lisburn's finest when Saturday comes but Gawley hopes it won't be case of 'hair today and gone tomorrow' for his second stint at the Showgrounds.

"I opened a barber's shop in Lisburn and with coming up for training three times a week and then getting injured at the start of the season, I said to Spike I wanted to take to Christmas off to concentrate on work, to work on Saturdays," he explained.

"I came back and I worked hard and got my fitness back and got back in the team. This is the first time in four seasons I've done a full pre-season so I feel sharp and the way we're playing with two out and out wingers, I can just try to get crosses into the box.

"It suits us because we've got Tippy (Matthew Tipton) in the team, so if we've Tippy and Boycie (Darren Boyce) or Tippy and Cush (David Cushley) up top, it means Ally Teggart and I can get crosses in and hopefully we'll score more goals."

That won't be easy against the Crues, but traditionally the Sky Blues find life easier snapping at the bigger fish than dealing with the league's minnows.

"Spike gave us a stat in pre-season that if we took less than half of the points against teams below us, we'd have finished fourth in the league table," he added.

"We need to beat teams below us and around us and hopefully push up the table and get top six.

"We always give the Crues a decent game and hopefully we can pick up a few points."

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