Ballymena boss Jim Ervin: We’ll not rely on Dundela for Premiership survival

Sky Blues face daunting trip to Linfield as Blues boss Healy feels the heat

Ballymena United manager Jim Ervin applauds the fans following his side's win over Coleraine        Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Ballymena United manager Jim Ervin says he is determined to gain as many points as they can in the Premiership despite the situation in the Championship Picture: Colm Lenaghan

Ballymena United boss Jim Ervin insists he is not relying on favours from Dundela in his quest to secure Premiership status next season.

The Sky Blues are second from bottom in the Sports Direct Premiership and have a daunting task against Linfield at Windsor Park on Saturday (3pm).

It emerged this week that Championship table toppers Dundela have not applied for a Premiership licence as the pitch at Wilgar Park does not meet the required measurements.

Should the Duns win the Championship, the second placed team in the second tier will face the bottom Premiership club – currently Newry City – in a two-legged play-off at the end of the season.

In this scenario, as things stand Ballymena would retain their top flight position but Ervin says he is paying no attention to events elsewhere.

“The Dundela situation doesn’t change anything for us as far as I am concerned”, said the Braidmen’s boss.

“I always put pressure on myself as a player and I do the same as a manager, and one thing I have learned over the years is that you cannot rely on anyone else for favours.

“I can’t rely on Dundela winning their league for us to be safe, we have to focus on ourselves and getting points on the board – quickly – and that includes today’s game at Windsor Park.

“Anything can happen between now and the end of the season and our aim is to get points on the board and try and catch Dungannon Swifts, who are five points ahead of us.”

Linfield began the month of February with a win over Ballymena United in the cup and want to end the month with another win over the Sky Blues on Saturday.

That 2-0 win was in the Irish Cup but the focus now is on the league and trying to regain top spot in the Sports Direct Premiership.

The Blues subsequently drew with Glenavon and lost to Coleraine, ceding the lead in the race for the title to reigning Champions Larne.

But David Healy’s team roared back into the race last Tuesday night with an emphatic 3-0 win over fellow challengers Cliftonville at Solitude.

Linfield manager David Healy has weathered some difficult periods from the club this season to guide his side to the top of the Sport Direct Premiership
Jim Ervin feels Linfield boss David Healy has come in for some unfair criticism this season

As a former Linfield player of distinction, Ervin knows the pressure Healy was facing in that run of three games without a win but cannot understand some of the negativity around Windsor in recent weeks.

“The criticism David got was uncalled for”, said the former defender.

“After losing to Coleraine, he was brave and made five changes to the team and brought a couple of young players into his starting line-up.

“I saw comments online querying his team selection but I was at the Cliftonville game on Tuesday night and it could have been four or five nil to Linfield.

“That squad is full of quality, whether it’s the young players coming through or the senior players who have been there and done it.

“It is the mentality at Linfield that we will be playing against today but we should have got a draw last week against Larne in my opinion and today is another opportunity for our players to prove a point.”

Linfield manager Healy wants his team to put in a similar performance to the one that saw the Blues put the Reds to the sword but knows it will be difficult.

“We’re up against a team fighting for its life, they came to Windsor Park not that long ago, they ran Larne very close last weekend so they’re still in there fighting”, said the successful Linfield manager.

“Jim understands the position he’s in and certainly the position that I’m going to be in at Linfield and we’ll need to be as effective as we were against Cliftonville last Tuesday night, hopefully as good on the ball and as clinical in the final third as we were during the week.”