Belfast Telegraph

Halting Coleraine's unbeaten start would taste sweet for Ballymena: Gault


By Graham Luney

Michael Gault says Ballymena United will relish the challenge of becoming the first team to smash Coleraine's unbeaten record in the Danske Bank Premiership this season.

Oran Kearney's high-flying Bannsiders haven't lost in eight league battles, though they did survive a scare last weekend when Glentoran's John McGuigan slipped as he attempted to convert a late winner from the penalty spot.

Coleraine's stunning start has sparked a lot of early title talk, but former Linfield skipper Gault has been around the game long enough to know that talk is cheap at this stage of the campaign.

The race for the Gibson Cup is a marathon, not a sprint, but the pacesetters, who visit the Ballymena Showgrounds tomorrow, are certainly flexing their muscles.

United defender Gault says confidence has also returned to the Sky Blues camp after three wins in their least four league outings.

"No doubt about it, Coleraine are flying and Oran Kearney has done a fantastic job," admitted Gault. "To think that some fans were calling on him to go shows you how fickle football fans can be.

"William Murphy, another legend I know well, has teamed up brilliantly with Oran and they will take some stopping. I think their form has been up there with Linfield's and Crusaders' while the two Belfast sides might argue they have bigger squads.

"But to beat Coleraine you need to be at the top of your game and it's a challenge we will relish. They have a lot of players who are very dangerous like Eoin Bradley, who has moved from Glenavon to Coleraine. Given half a chance he can be ruthless.

"We will work hard and be fully prepared but Coleraine are a very talented young team and they have that unbeaten record they will want to preserve.

"It would be nice if we could break that and have those bragging rights, but our primary objective is always to get points for Ballymena United.

"I think our confidence took a knock after a few bad results but I felt we should have beaten Glentoran. We lost 3-1 but I felt the scoreline flattered them."

Kearney is facing title questions on a weekly basis but Gault insists it's too early to be making wild predictions.

"It's too early to talk about title contenders," said the 34-year-old.

"When I was at Portadown we were flying up until Christmas but leagues aren't won then.

"It's a very long season and you need to have a strong squad. Injuries and suspensions happen and it will be interesting to see if Coleraine can maintain their form.

"It's all about consistency, we're looking for that too, but it's great for the Irish League to have a team outside Belfast challenging at the top.

"It adds interest to the league, and of course Glenavon are hitting form and scoring goals as well."

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