Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Sky the limit for Andy and Kevin at Ballymena United

As a defender who takes pride in keeping clean sheets it may come as a bit of a surprise then that Gary Haveron wants an increase in net bulging at the Showgrounds this season.

The Ballymena United captain, whose side take on Cliftonville tomorrow at Warden Street, can't wait to see new boy Andy Smith's burgeoning relationship with Kevin Kelbie bearing fruit.

He, like Sky Blue fans, will have to be patient though as the Scottish striker misses the opening day encounter through suspension, giving the former Preston striker an early chance to take the lead in the goalscoring stakes.

“Andy takes a lot of pressure off Kevin, because he's played at a high level,” Haveron explained.

“He's played for Northern Ireland, he has 18 caps and people maybe will knock him because of what happened last year at Portadown, but if he gets his head down and works hard for Ballymena that's all he can do.

“He works incredibly hard for the team and I honestly wouldn't like to be in a team of defenders that has to come up against Andy Smith and Kevin Kelbie.

“That's not to knock the boys below them, we have some good young lads coming through and Nathan McConnell has been excellent in pre-season, but those two boys would frighten anyone.

“They're a strike-force to be reckoned with, Andy will work the channels all day and will be a great foil for Kevin. It will also take a bit of pressure off Kevin as he's our main goal source and he's come back really hungry and determined to prove that he's the main man.

“There will be good competition between the pair of them, they'll work well together, but they'll want to score more than each other and that can only help us.”

Having limped to a 10th place finish last time around, the gReds, who beat United 5-1 in the corresponding fixture on the opening day last season, are one of the teams that Haveron has in his sights as Roy Walker's men look to break into the top six.

“You have to improve because other teams around are you improving. We go into this season and people don't know what to expect because we got off to such a bad start last time, then we went on a decent run and dipped again at the end,” said Haveron.

“I think this year we have two people for every position so there's really good competition for places, and that will push people on. I think last season the boss maybe had to use players he would ratehr not have because we were short of bodies, but this year if you're not doing it on the pitch you won't be in the team.

“There have been a lot of changes at the club and people have to understand that so last season was very much a transitional one and the boss knew that, but now he has kept the ones he wants to keep and this is his team now.

“There's a good blend now, the dressing room is a nice place to be, the club is a nice place to be and there's a lot of positivity about. Ballymena is a fantastic football club and it deserves to be in the top six.

“I know people are sick, sore and tired hearing this, but the fans deserve success.

“The numbers that have been coming to pre-season have been incredible, they've been brilliant and we hope to give them something to cheer this season.”

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