Gary McCutcheon tops Premiership goalscoring charts

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Gary McCutcheon
Gary McCutcheon tops the Premiership goalscoring charts

There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Gary McCutcheon was released by Portadown as part of "cost-cutting measures" at the end of the 2009-10 season.

The prolific striker was deemed surplus to requirements at Shamrock Park despite several years of regularly knocking in the goals for Ronnie McFall's outfit.

McFall cited the ecomomic downturn as the reason for the forward's departure.

Since then the 33-year-old has proved a valuable addition for Ballymena United and has grabbed his fair share of the headlines by netting 22 goals for the mid-table Showgrounds outfit in the opening four months of the current campaign.

The Scotsman's tally sees him comfortably top the Premiership goalscoring charts midway through the season, overshadowing many of the league's leading lights in the process.

McCutcheon enjoyed his first taste of Irish League action with Portadown during a loan spell from Kilmarnock in the 2001-02 season, and went on to play for Larne, before re-joining the Ports in 2006.

The highlight of his second spell at the Mid-Ulster Club was scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Newry City in the final of the CIS Insurance League Cup in February 2009.

"It was disappointing to leave Portadown but I'm enjoying life at Ballymena and seemingly improving with age," said the in-form McCutcheon, who travels over to games from Scotland on the Stranraer ferry.

"It's been a crazy season so far but I have to give praise to the players round me - they are creating the chances and I'm just fortunate to be getting on the end of them.

"I haven't set myself any specific target to reach by May - I'll just keep trying to get in the right positions and put away as many opportunities as I can.

"Strange as it may seem, I think my good form is down to the fact that I'm getting a bit older and have adapted my game accordingly.

"I'm not able to do as much running outside the penalty area as I used to, so I'm spending more time in the box and have reaped the rewards by poaching more goals.

"People think it must be a hassle travelling over to matches, but you'd have a two to three hour journey in the car to away games every other week if you were playing in Scotland.

"I'd rather enjoy the comfort of travelling on the boat than being stuck in the car or an a bus."

Gary McCutcheon
McCutcheon joined Ballymena United from Portadown in May 2010

The Sky Blues lie seventh in the table and their home form has been a cause of particular concern, with just two wins out of 10 on their own patch.

"We have conceded an average of three goals per game so it's not hard to see where our main problems lie - we are not defending well as a team," outlined the Scot, who scored 15 goals for United last season.

"The players knew they let the club down in the 7-3 defeat by Cliftonville and we owed everyone a result against Donegal Celtic on Saturday.

"There was a lot of soul searching done between those games and the manager got the right response.

"I only learned on Saturday that Roy Walker has threatened to quit if things didn't improve by the New Year so it's up to the players to get the results and keep him in a job.

"We played well against Donegal Celtic in the first half and saw out the game comfortably in the second, but now we face a tough test against Linfield at Windsor Park.

"I always enjoy playing the Blues at the national stadium as it's good to pit your wits against some of the top players in the league.

"We also have a League Cup semi-final to look forward to - to reach the final would give everyone at the club a big lift."