Ballymena United early-season home games switched after pitch re-laid

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey
David Jeffrey's Ballymena must play their matches away from home until at least mid-September

Ballymena United supporters are set to have to wait until October to see their side in home league action after the pitch at the Showgrounds was re-laid.

All the club's scheduled Premiership matches for August and September at the Warden Street venue have been switched.

The Sky Blues will be away to Crusaders on 11 August, away to Ards on 18 August and then travel to Milltown to face Warrenpoint Town on 1 September.

They will face Glentoran at the Oval on a date yet to be arranged in September.

The Glens were due to visit the Showgrounds on 15 September but a different date has to be agreed for that fixture as their east Belfast ground is unavailable that day.

If the weather is favourable between now and mid-September the Braidmen may have their pitch available for a County Antrim Shield first round tie on 18 September but it is more likely that the game against Newry City on 6 October will now be their first of the new campaign on their home ground.

With the early-season fixtures being reversed, United will now entertain Crusaders on 27 October, Glentoran on 10 November and Ards on 22 December, with Warrenpoint visiting the Showgrounds on 23 March 2019.

Other changes to Premiership fixtures have also been announced.

Two games originally scheduled to take place on 11 August, Linfield v Institute and Newry City v Dungannon Swifts, will now take place at 19:45 BST on 10 August.

Newry's home game against Glenavon has been moved from 18 August to 17 August, while Coleraine v Institute has also been brought forward a day to 24 August.

Another Newry home match, against Institute, has been moved from 20 October to 19 October.

Ballymena United will have to play their fixtures away from home until mid-September after their pitch was re-laid ahead of the new season.

The condition of the Showgrounds pitch has been problematic in recent years.

"Barring unforeseen circumstances the date we have been given when the pitch should be available is 15 September," said United vice-chairman Don Stirling.

"The weather has been kind recently so the work is going ahead on schedule or even slightly ahead of schedule."

The size of the pitch at the Warden Street venue is being extended as part of the work, meaning that United could play games in European competition at home in the future were they to qualify.

"The weather is still a factor and the more time the grass is given to bed in the better so if it turned out that we were away on 15 September and that gave us an extra week it could be all the better," explained the long-serving United official.

"The fixtures will be released home and away as normal and my understanding is that we will then have to rely on the goodwill of other clubs to switch fixtures."

The Premiership fixtures for the 2018-19 season will be released on Friday 29 June, with the first matches of the new campaign to take place on Saturday 4 August.

Meanwhile the main Showgrounds pitch will be unavailable for the finals night of Super Cup NI on Friday 27 July, so it is expected that those matches will be played on one of the other pitches, with temporary stands erected to accommodate supporters.