Two sides languishing in the lower reaches of the Carling Premiership table showed just why they are destined to be, at best, also-rans this season.
Ballymena United and Newry City shared the spoils in a mediocre clash at the Showgrounds where there was little other than the half-time soup to warm the heart of that increasingly endangered species — the Irish League fan. And on this showing, no wonder.
The case for the defence would argue that it was, by and large, a meaningless match in the grand scheme of things, played on a shockingly bobbly pitch, and with a home side bereft of two key men in Albert Watson and Darren Lockhart.
The case for the prosecution would contend that the players coming in should have been doing all they could to try and stake a claim for Ballymena’s season-defining JJB Sports Irish Cup quarter-final clash with Glenavon next weekend.
And the brave and true men of the watching Warden Street jury would conclude that it was Mourneview rather than the men from the Mournes that seemed to be on Sky Blue minds, despite Roy Walker’s pre-match warning.
“I was at pains before the game to point out that the most important match was today’s, with an opportunity to win it and jump a place, but we couldn’t do it,” he said.
“What it proved today was that we missed players. Gavin Taggart has been playing really well for us in midfield, you miss Locky (Darren Lockhart) and before the game Noel Anderson cried off sick with a virus.
“Hopefully we can get them patched up (for Glenavon). Albert Watson has stitches in his face but if gets them out he should be okay for Saturday.
“Glenavon are in a poor enough run themselves, but it’s a cup match.
“I’m just disappointed by us today, we were lacklustre.”
The cup-tied Gary Muir will miss that game, giving him even more time to ponder just how he managed to knock the ball wide when it was passed to him 12 yards from goal by Newry keeper Andy Coleman — one of the few times the Braidmen threatened.
For John McDonnell his concerns are two-fold, a lack of goals as Stephen Garrett, Alan Davidson and Andy Graham all spurned glorious chances and what his side will be doing next weekend with the fall-out from the Battle of the Marshes still hanging over the border club.
A decision over Newry and Larne’s fate is imminent, but City boss McDonnell is getting increasingly frustrated.
“We’ve just got to keep going, we don’t know what the situation is,” he said.
“We’ve a week of training ahead of us now, and I’m sure there will be nothing this week.
“You could end up with the cup final and they’ll either be playing A, B, C or D or whoever. I really don’t know why it’s going on so long.”