Ballymena United turned in a supreme performance of strength, spirit and determination on Tuesday night in beating table-toppers Glentoran — and boss Roy Walker has warned derby rivals Coleraine: ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Walker hailed his men after that, somewhat, surprising display at the Oval with their hard work and endeavour at the forefront of his praise.
However, the last time they reaped a good result against one of the Big Two — a 0-0 draw away to champions Linfield on the opening day — it was followed up by a 4-0 drubbing by newly promoted Donegal Celtic.
But the Sky Blues manager has pointed out that if anyone thinks United were up for it against the Glens, just wait until they head up the road to face the Bannsiders.
“It’s not something that I think is deliberately thought through, that you’ve beaten the Glens and you take your eye off the next one,” claimed Walker.
“We have a local derby and trust me that’s a bigger match than us playing Glentoran.
“Our boys will be, I think, naturally motivated for that one.
“Coleraine have picked another good win up (against Cliftonville on Tuesday), it’s always a good game, it’s a game that gets more than the creative juices flowing within the fans and I think it will be a good encounter at Ballycastle Road.
“Will we lift our game? I hope so, and I hope we keep performing as we are.”
Some Glenmen found United’s approach to Tuesday night’s game as being over-physical — eight of their players were booked, while young midfielder Rory Carson got two of those and was sent off.
In fairness to Walker and the Sky Blues, while there were a few tasty tackles flying in from the visitors, they were, for the most, part fair and Glens boss Scott Young acknowledged afterwards that the Braidmen ‘wanted it more’.
United certainly have been throwing their weight around in the fairest possible sense, but Walker has denied that he is putting together a team of bully-boys.
“We set them out that when the other team have the ball we work hard to get it back,” admitted the boss.
“Would the Glens do any less? Absolutely not. Would any team do any less? Absolutely not. I didn’t see anyone get chopped down from behind or elbowed or anything like that.
“I saw people making genuine attempts to get the ball. I’m still of the opinion, because I was in a great position (in the stand), better than the referee, that Rory Carson’s first booking was a shocking decision.
“If you can’t tackle like that then we need to adopt basketball rules for football because it will become a non-contact sport and we’ll all be playing with powder-puffs.”
The Showgrounds has become synonymous with false dawns and the supporters won’t be getting too excited, though there was a definite spring in their collective steps as they bounced out of the Oval on Tuesday.
But they are well aware that they’ve been in this position before and Walker, too, has guarded against getting carried away.
“We are encouraged — that would be the best word I could use,” he said. “We are encouraged about where we are and we are encouraged about how we have performed.”