Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Opener already has that six point feel for Sky Blues

It may be a bit early in the season to label any game a 'six-pointer' but Ballymena United's visit to Mourneview Park has that distinct feel about it.

The opening day is unlikely to throw up any surprises for either Tommy Wright or Glenavon counterpart Colin Malone.

This will be the sides' third meeting of the campaign, United winning 3-1 in mid-Ulster, while both managers' pulses will just about have settled after an extraordinary game at the Showgrounds, where the visitors led 3-0 but were glad to escape with a draw.

But a quick glance at the Sky Blues' opening half a dozen games in the Carnegie Premier League suddenly makes this clash all the more important.

Glentoran, Crusaders, Cliftonville, Linfield and Portadown are next up, and Wright is less than impressed that the powers-that-be have reversed last season's fixtures.

"This is the second time we've had this start, just because somebody couldn't be bothered to change the fixtures," he barked.

" It has left us with another difficult start, and I don't think anyone has as difficult a start.

"Last year we took seven points from those six games and our first target has to be to try and better that."

That will be a tall order and while he refuses to entertain any talk of knives sharpening around the Braid, the vultures will already be gathering on top of Slemish.

"I don't think the pressure ever changes at Ballymena," he admitted.

"The club has been starved of success, and I'm not the first manager who has failed to win something.

"The fans and I expect more, but at Ballymena it almost goes from result to result, and at times the level of criticism levelled at players can be over the top.

"We should be doing a lot better and I genuinely believe we have a team capable of doing a Cliftonville and making that step. I can't stop what people write or think and people are entitled to their opinion, but all we need is that level of consistency."

There is some good news though with the return of last season's top goalscorer, Kevin Kelbie, who is likely to replace broken arm victim, Paul Brown.

Kelbie will slot in beside Davitt Walsh after scoring twice for the Reserves last week, and Wright says the Scottish striker is champing at the bit.

"Kevin is a top striker, he's proven he can score goals in this league and feels he is playing catch-up," he added.

"We'll certainly know plenty about Glenavon, and them about us, and while our games were great advertisements for the game, they weren't so good for my health, and I'd gladly settle for a boring 1-0 win."

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