Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena United eager to gain Swift revenge, reveals McMurray

By David Mason and Adrian Rutherford

Striker Johnny McMurray believes Ballymena United have a score to settle when Dungannon Swifts make the trip to the Showgrounds today.

The former Warrenpoint Town man still has unhappy memories from the County Tyrone team's last visit to the same venue when Rodney McAree's men racked up an impressive 4-1 victory. That was on November 19, but the Sky Blues have bounced off the ropes since that setback.

"They battered us that day," recalled McMurray. "I don't know what happened, but we never turned up. In saying that, Dungannon played very well. We must make sure the same thing doesn't happen."

United got back to winning ways - albeit courtesy of a penalty shoot-out - in last week's Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville. It followed two horrible league results against Glenavon and Ards.

"We needed the win in the cup," said McMurray. "The two previous performances were not good enough. We threw away a lead in both games.

"The big disappointment was the performance against Glenavon. We were 3-1 up at the break, but still managed to squander it. Once they got back into the game just after the interval, the momentum was with them.

"We have been scoring a lot of goals, but we have also been leaking a lot of goals. When that happens, it is difficult to win football matches.

"Those defeats (Ards and Glenavon) made last week's cup game against Cliftonville even more important. The main thing was that we all stuck together.

"We knew it would be tough. Cliftonville have players that can hurt you, the likes of Davy McDaid, Jay Donnelly and Stephen Garrett. It was one of those games, end to end. They were on top, then we were on top.

"But we were defensively strong. Once the game went to penalties, it became a lottery, so there was a lot of emotion at the end."

Ironically, free-scoring full-back Tony Kane blotted his impeccable copybook by missing from the spot after ramming home the previous 12. He has, however, 15 goals to his name and that's impressive going for a defender.

"That's him off the penalties," cracked McMurray. "I'll be grabbing the ball the next time we are awarded a spot-kick. Tony's had a great run. He scored a great free-kick against the Reds, but had he put away the penalty, it could have possibly saved us from extra-time.

"Every game is now massive. Our target at the outset was a top six place. We are still on course, but it's important to start picking up big results again.

"We have to target three points from Dungannon and that's not being disrespectful."

Meanwhile, McAree wants Dungannon to improve their defensive record.

The Tyrone side have scored 42 but conceded 35, and McAree admits they need to tighten up at the back.

"We're not keeping enough clean sheets for me," he said.

"Clean sheets win matches - we have to keep more clean sheets and try to make it harder for teams to break us down."

One thing that should be guaranteed this weekend is goals. Apart from the Swifts' own defensive troubles, Ballymena have scored 51 and conceded just as many to date.

"They are right up there when you look at their for and against columns," McAree added. "David Jeffrey has got them playing a very attacking style of football and it maybe leaves them a little bit more open at the back. We'll have to try to exploit that."

Meanwhile, the League Cup final between Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers will take place at Seaview on Saturday, February 18 (5.30pm). Ticket details will be released next week.

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