Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena out to banish their derby agony with defeat of Coleraine

by Billy Weir

To say that Ballymena United are due a positive result against their noisy neighbours is something of an understatement.

It has been four years since the Sky Blues inflicted a defeat on Coleraine, a 3-2 victory courtesy of goals from Andy Smith, Noel Anderson and an own goal from Howard Beverland.

Of the three, only Beverland remains for Boxing Day's meeting, with the Bannsiders looking to make it 15 games without defeat against their rivals.

But in the middle of a horror run of their own with seven defeats on the trot, Oran Kearney's men have had little to shout about of late.

Opposite number Glenn Ferguson, buoyed by Saturday's impressive defeat of title-challengers Crusaders, has three points and a step closer to the top six as his main targets, although adding to Coleraine's woes would certainly not be frowned upon down Warden Street way.

"I was actually hoping they would have won on Saturday because I don't think they've won now in nine games and we're on a good run," Ferguson said.

"I'm happy with our performances of late going into this game. It would be worse if we'd maybe lost three or four games going into it and we'd be on edge, but we go with a bit of confidence, not arrogance but confidence in the way we're playing and hopefully we can build on that and get this so-called monkey off our back.

"It's a local derby and it's an old cliché but form goes out the window. In derbies, anything can happen, but if we play the way we're playing we'll be a match for them.

"Coleraine are a good side. Good players don't become bad ones overnight and it would be a great pick-up for them if they could get a result against us and that's what they'll be aiming for."

United are currently hot on the heels of Dungannon in the battle for the all-important sixth spot in the table and a win over Coleraine would keep them firmly breathing down the Swifts' necks.

"If you sit down and look at it – Linfield, Portadown, Glentoran, Crusaders and Cliftonville – their budgets are way bigger than what we have, so they should be in the top six, so that's five places away and the rest are battling it out for one place," added Ferguson.

"Glenavon, Dungannon and ourselves are going well, Ards and Warrenpoint are maybe out of it, but there's another four teams going for that one spot. But we'll try and pick up as many points as we can and come the split we'll see where we are.

"It's never been done here and it's something we're aiming for. It has taken two years and slowly but surely we're getting them round into our way of thinking, the professionalism, the time-keeping, the discipline, it's everything. Hopefully now they're all singing off the same hymn sheet."

He'll certainly hope they'll be in good voice leaving Ballycastle Road on Thursday.

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