Ballymena United boss Roy Walker hit out at his defence after last night's 4-1 defeat to Glentoran by describing them as being worse than a pub team.
The Sky Blues are rock bottom of the JJB Sports Premiership; yet to taste victory in the league and in the first half at the Oval they put in a performance that suggested they are going to be holding up the rest for some considerable time.
Indeed had Glentoran, who were 4-0 up at half-time, not decided that the game was won by then, the Braidmen could have been staring at a very embarrassing defeat.
United have now shipped an astonishing 22 goals in eight league games – which doesn't even take into account the six they conceded against the Glens in the Co Antrim Shield two weeks ago – and Walker is clearly at the end of his tether with the backline.
“Whilst I understand that players don't go out to deliberately play bad, in the centre of our defence, someone said it was like a pub team; to which my response was, 'that's not fair on a pub team,' because it was worse, much worse,” said Walker.
“What can you say, other than, the players aren't good enough. You can only work with the tools that are in the box. Some of them are blunt, some of them are rusted. Can life be breathed into them? Some? Possibly. Others? Probably not.
“The only positive I can take from the game is the way we played in the second half . . . more spirited. But the basis for playing that way was not conceding goals.
“When you think you have Archie Stewart and Liam Hogan in the defence in the second half you are asking a lot of kids, but I would much rather persevere with them. with a view to developing them as players.
“Sadly they are doing it at the wrong end of the table which wouldn't be my way. But whilst there may be a naivety, it's a chance to work with them and improve them.”
David Scullion put the Glens in front and United defender Thomas Wray doubled the advantage with a spectacular own goal before Michael Halliday and a Colin Nixon penalty put the east Belfast men out of sight.
Such is the expectation levels at the Oval there were even, amazingly, a few murmurs of discontent among the support at the final whistle after a not so bright second half from the title challengers.
Boss Alan McDonald, too, wasn't overly happy with his side's display after the break but he preferred to look at the positives of a fine win, which took the Glens up into third.
“I'm probably a little bit disappointed, and I spoke to the players and they are disappointed too,” he said. “We were in a fabulous position at half-time after as good a 45 minutes as we have played – even taking into account Windsor Park last week – and it was a chance for us to take the game on and be professional and not concede any goals.”
“Meanwhile, Linfield shot to the top of the JJB Sports Premiership table with a hard earned 2-1 victory over early season pacesetters Lisburn Distillery at New Grosvenor.
Glenn Ferguson was on the mark twice to see off the Whites, leaving Blues boss David Jeffrey delighted to see the champions reclaim their place at the league's summit.
“I'm very pleased,” he said. “We knew that coming here was going to be very difficult. I thought we played some very controlled football. We had a couple of chances which we could have taken but I thought the two goals Glenn scored for us were phenomenal.”