Ballymena United 1 Crusaders 1
If you look up the phrase ‘stop-start’ in any thesaurus there’s usually a picture of Ryan Berry beside the definition.
Once hailed as the next bright young thing at Glentoran, he found himself on loan at Coagh United before Roy Walker took a gamble on the midfielder in the summer and brought him to the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Injuries have played havoc since his arrival, meaning only brief appearances off the bench, but on Saturday he made the most of it to grab a late equaliser to deny Crusaders and his timing couldn’t be better.
With the influential Nathan Hanley beginning a three-match suspension and Gavin Taggart limping off, there’s a place going spare in United’s midfield and the 22-year-old is determined to grab it with both hands.
Which is more than can be said of Berry’s fellow close season arrival Ryan Brown, whose United career goes from bad to worse with another horrific howler that handed Jordan Owens the easiest goal he’ll ever score.
That came in the 44th minute and was the very least Crusaders’ efforts deserved, matched only by the hard work put in by volunteers from the home club who worked tirelessly to ensure the game went ahead as the Braid blizzards took hold.
A 15 minute delay at the break as snow was cleared again meant it was coming up on five o’clock when Berry announced his arrival at Warden Street with his first goal for the club, a perfectly timed run and header, but he now wants to make up for lost time.
“I scored one like that in pre-season, pretty much identical so I think that’s the only way I’m going to score at the minute,” he explained.
“I thought we were pretty poor in the first-half but we upped it in the second and for me personally I’ve struggled this season with injury so I just want to get on and get my fitness back.
“It has been frustrating because when you join a new club you want to make an instant impact but with injuries and stuff it’s been one step forward and two back but the gaffer has had faith in bringing me here and I want to repay that.
“I haven’t been able to do that with not playing so it has been hard and it’s up to me now to take my chance, get back in the team and get playing.
“Things at the Glens didn’t work out for one reason or another. I had a decent time there but it’s up to me now to come back and prove people wrong and show people what I can do.
“Hopefully now I can get a wee run in the team and get my name back out there.”
Primed to come off the bench at the break, there looked little chance of Berry or anyone getting back out there as the snow cascaded down and the only sweepers on show were the Showgrounds double act called Barney and Declan whose brushwork was exemplary.
Play resumed and the snow finally dissipated but, while annoyed at losing all three points, Stephen Baxter was pleased to get the game completed.
“It was coming down a fair steam but fair play to Stephen Weatherall. He said we’ll go out there and see if we can get it going and hopefully not be snowed off and both teams to their credit got on with it in difficult conditions,” he commented.
“I was very pleased because when you’re 45 minutes in you don’t want to cancel a game and have to come up and do it all over again so I’m glad we got it done and it proved a good decision.”
The two dropped points could be crucial in the race for the title, but Baxter feels it is the nature of the Carling Premiership and that plenty more points will be won and lost in the coming weeks and months.
“It’s a hard-fought league, all the teams are very capable and we all know that,” he added. “We’ve had some good results and some poor results and you don’t know what you’re going to get week to week.
“We did quite well for 75 minutes but didn’t do enough to get over the line and that’s football. There will be another day when we do nothing for 75 minutes and then go on and win a game and sometimes that happens, you pinch games and Ballymena were lucky enough to pinch a point.”