It was a weekend of raised eyebrows across the length and breadth of the land as football once again proved it is indeed a funny old game.
Linfield beaten at home by Lisburn Distillery, Crusaders glad to rescue a point at Seaview against struggling Dungannon Swifts and at Warden Street only one outcome was expected as top took on bottom.
Roy Walker’s Ballymena United side though had other ideas as Kevin Kelbie’s 58th minute strike cancelled out David Scullion’s opener 12 minutes earlier and grabbed the Sky Blues a share of the spoils.
Glens fans will point to the penalty that they should have been given but will also be very grateful for Jamie McGovern’s late goal-saving header off the line that ensured they didn’t return down the M2 with nothing to show for their travels.
One man not surprised by the bet-busting results was Glentoran boss Alan McDonald who was unwilling to use the convenient excuse of his side’s Setanta Sports Cup exertions against Drogheda United as an excuse.
“I made a couple of changes to try and freshen things up but sometimes we look at performances and say it wasn’t a great Glentoran performance but I don’t think we give the opposition enough credit,” he said.
“Ballymena pushed us all the way and you’ve got to give them credit for that.
“Right from day one I’ve said that if you look at the league this year and you’re seeing surprising results. It’s a lot tougher, it’s certainly a lot tougher in the last couple of years when I’ve been involved with Glentoran, it’s a much tougher league and that’s credit to the teams because they have strengthened.
“Every week we’ve been finding ourselves in a cup final but thankfully this midweek we have a break because we’ve been playing a hell of a lot of football so we’ll be having a little rest and recuperation and then start back to work on Thursday for another tough game next week.”
For Walker it is a third unbeaten match on the trot and his lot is a much happier one now that his message has filtered through to his players.
“I’m saying to players to stand up and be counted,” he explained.
“Spartacus was the team-talk and who was going to stand up, so the boys will be watching the DVD through the week!
“It was a good game of football and the other pleasing thing for me was in the last 10 or 15 minutes when Glentoran may have gone gung ho I thought we stood up and in fact the ball was down more at their end.
“Every manager will say the same thing — keep it tight for 10 minutes after the break — but we’re often guilty of giving away cheap free-kicks when there’s maybe no need to. Credit to Scullion with a good finish, it was a good delivery in, but I was disappointed that we let the ball get into a dangerous area when the free-kick could have been prevented.
“I said to the boys before the game, if you look at the American Football analogy, over four quarters, two quarters in each game, we won the last one and so for me that was something we could draw strength from because we went to the Oval and competed when we were playing for pride. I thought to a man we stood up.
“I have to pay tribute to the fans again — they have been magnificent. I know the players fully appreciate their endeavours because they could have been vitriolic a few weeks ago and I didn’t hear too many acerbic comments coming out of the Sky Blue supporters and I want to thank them for that because we need them. We need to galvanise the troops and I’m very grateful to them.”