Ballymena Utd 3 Glenavon 3
Frustration, elation, consternation, palpitations and ultimately consolation, were the gamut of emotions felt by the opposing managers on the touchlines at the Showgrounds on Saturday.
Ballymena United and Glenavon had to settle for a share of the spoils after a pulsating game ended with six goals, a red card, a plethora of bookings and head-scratching decisions from the man in the middle, but the saddest statistic of all was a Mark Surgenor being stretchered off.
It was the latter incident, when the Broughshane lad was the victim of an ill-timed tackle from former United favourite, Kevin Kelbie, that was the catalyst for an upping of temperatures and a heated exchanges at the final whistle between Roy Walker and Marty Quinn.
Gary McCutcheon opened the scoring after just 72 seconds, followed three minutes later by Jordan Baker’s close-range finish before the Scottish striker took his tally for the season to four from the penalty spot just past the half-hour.
Then the game turned, Mark Haughey and Kevin Kelbie netting within three minutes of each other before the latter was lucky to only be shown yellow by referee Mervyn Smyth for his rash tackle on Surgenor.
Surgenor, who has ankle ligament damage and a badly bruised leg, was replaced by Aaron Black who nonsensically picked up two yellow cards in his seven minutes on the pitch and the 10-men held on bravely until two minutes from time when the visitors grabbed a deserved equaliser through the classy Niall Henderson.
At the end of the game though the excitement continued as accusatory digits were thrust back and forth and heated words exchanged between the respective bosses.
“Kevin Kelbie should be red-carded for a tackle from behind and we’ve a boy in hospital as a result of it,” said an exasperated Walker.
“I’m disappointed. That team’s game is built around a physicality that bordered at times today on being over-zealous and you need a strong referee.
“I had two or three separate conversations relayed to me about members of their staff and what they should do to certain players on our team and when I pointed that out he got awfully defensive about it.
“You can’t unring a bell. I’m sorry, you said what you said. I’m not making stories up, I’m just quoting fact and when I pointed that out to him he got a bit defensive, but that’s alright I can look after myself too.”
Unsurprisingly Quinn was singing from a very different hymn sheet, rejecting accusations that his players deliberately set out to hurt opponents.
“I hope the lad Surgenor is okay, it was a wee bit heated for a while but knowing Kevin Kelbie as I do, there’s no malice in him. Kevin Kelbie doesn’t go out to hurt people,” he stressed.
“For anyone to make accusations towards Glenavon that we went out to do people they’re totally wrong and I’d like an apology from someone at Ballymena regards that, but it probably won’t be forthcoming. There were a few words said and I took great exception to them.”