By NEIL McKNIGHT
Paul Gaston suffered his first defeat as Ballymoney United boss on Saturday – but is determined to stick with his side’s attractive brand of football.
United paid a heavy price for a few simple mistakes as they lost 3-0 away to league-toppers Coagh United.
The defeat came after three impressive victories for Gaston’s young team in the Belfast Telegraph Championship Two.
However despite the unflattering scoreline, the new manager said his team still performed well and that his slick passing philosophy is the way to achieve success.
That statement was underlined by high praise from Coagh’s manager.
Gaston said: “We will try and play the game the right way. The opposition’s boss told us to keep doing what we are doing and that we are the best footballing team they have played.”
Ballymoney got off to a bright start but quickly conceded within five minutes after being caught out with a ball over the top.
It soon got worse for Gaston’s debut reign when United let in an unfortunate goal on 20 minutes.
Toon tried to play out from the back but lost possession and Chris Getty slid the ball into his own net after a dangerous cross into the box.
The Blues were then dealt a further blow just before half-time when Coagh got a third goal.
The young defenders left a forward unmarked in the danger zone and he powered a free header into the goal.
In the second half Ballymoney bravely stuck to their fluid style despite the morale-sapping score and actually took the game to the opposition.
However their game fightback was hindered by the sending off of Kyle Buckley for two yellow cards.
Despite the setback Ballymoney continued to push back the opposition and did themselves and their manager proud by drawing the second half 0-0 with a man down.
While disappointed with the result Gaston saw enough spark and high-quality performances to remain relatively upbeat about the game.
He said: “It was a terrible result, but actually for the first five to 10 minutes we started well, trying to play good football.
“Top-of-the-league teams are no better than us. We will try and play football the right way.
“If we had scored in the second half you never know what could have happened.
“You can’t gift goals or you will get punished. We played really well with 10 men and we will try and learn from it.”
“It’s a learning curve for us and we’ve nine points out of 12.”
And that learning curve will continue this Saturday when United take on third-placed Dundela.
The visitors have three games in hand on league leaders Coagh, but Gaston is hopeful they will not pick up any points at the Riada Stadium.
And excellent performances from two young substitutes gives him further confidence and also a selection headache.
Gaston said: “Hugh Og Boyle (20) came on at left back and he was excellent.
“Willie Wilkinson was very impressive when he replaced the injured Ian Christie.”
Gaston was also greatly encouraged by right back Francis McKenna when he moved in to midfield.
The return of Gareth Hull and Gerald Gillan for this Saturday’s game will cushion the blow of Buckley’s dismissal and who is banned for the next game.
Gaston added that he will relish the challenge of Dundela’s visit and is looking forward to a series of home games.
He said: “Dundela will be tough test. We have to make our homes like a fortress. We’ve seen Coagh and this game will tell us where we are at.”