Release Date: Aug 12, 2011
RORY Carson believes Ballymena United can surprise a few people this season and finish in the top six, writes Alex Gulrajani.
The Sky Blues got their season underway with an emphatic 4-1 win at Lisburn Distillery as they became the early leaders in the Carling Premiership.
Roy Walker lost influential pair Albert Watson and Michael Smith this summer, while a host of players – including club captain Gary Haveron – were released.
But despite those departures, Carson is expecting a good season at Warden Street.
"If I'm honest, I think we look stronger this season than we did last," Carson admitted.
"Albert and Michael were probably the best players in their positions last season but we've been in good form during pre-season and I think we'll surprise a few people.
"The top six has to be our aim. We've been playing some excellent, passing football this summer and are looking strong.
"James Costello has arrived and he's scoring for fun while Gary McCutcheon is a class player so I think it's a realistic ambition."
McCutcheon struck twice in the opening day victory at Ballyskeagh with debutants Alan Teggart and Jordan Baker getting the other two.
Carson remained on the bench as an unused sub as the former Bradford City youngster enters his second season with the Sky Blues.
He had a tough introduction to his Ballymena career following his arrival last summer as injury restricted him to just 13 league appearances.
But the 20-year-old did enough to earn a contract from Roy Walker this summer and is looking to repay his manager's faith.
"Last season was very frustrating as I wanted to come in and make a good impression," Carson said.
"Getting injured early on was a nightmare but now I've had the knee surgery, it's great to play without pain – it's probably the first time in two years that I've not been injured.
"After only playing a handful of games last season, I was delighted when the manager told me I was in his plans and he wanted me to stay at the club.
"I've come back stronger since the operation, lost some weight and am looking forward to pushing for a first-team place.
"I start every season looking be a first-team regular and I'll do the same this year but we've got good competition for places.
"I'm playing my best football in a couple of years so I'm hoping I've impressed the manager."