Ballymena United 0 Donegal Celtic 3
Published 28/02/2011 | 03:59
Crusaders come calling to Ballymena tomorrow night but it remains to be seen whether the most successful manager in their history will be up against them.
After Saturday's dismal 3-0 defeat by Donegal Celtic, Ballymena United boss Roy Walker has spent a weekend of soul-searching as to whether to call time on his tenure as Showgrounds supremo.
Certainly he is under no pressure from the club to quit but, having watched his side lose heavily at home for the second time this season to a team that has spent the campaign looking at everyone above them, then it's not hard to understand why he may think he has gone as far as he can.
That would be cruel on someone who guided the Crues to the heady heights of Gibson Cup glory and Walker, back from his self-imposed spell in the wilderness from the game, genuinely felt he was the man to lead the Sky Blues to the promised land of success and the end of a 22-year trophy famine.
But he has yet to solve the enigma that has plagued a succession of managers in the Braid hot-seat — inconsistency.
Battling draws against the likes of Linfield and Cliftonville are all well and good but a 3-0 defeat against Donegal Celtic that lacked anything remotely resembling pride, spirit or quality shows just why they've now gone nine without a win.
And it's unfortunate for Celtic that, on the weekend they finally got off the foot of the table thanks to a performance brimming with pride, spirit and quality, that their efforts have been largely overtaken by Walker's position.
To the game and, despite a relatively promising start, once Eamon McAllister's thunderbolt had evaded the grasp of Ryan Brown on the half-hour mark the writing was on the wall.
Yes, they had a Mark Surgenor header cleared off the line and Gary McCutcheon’s left-foot shot smacked off the post in the second period but, when Brown waved at the superb Stephen McAlorum's corner and Darren McNamee gratefully nodded home in the 71st minute, it was all over.
Only it wasn't as worse was to come. Mark Dickson, a man who can't even train due to his dodgy knees, had all the time in the world to latch onto Paul McVeigh's flick-on and Denver Gage's clumsy tackle floored the striker. McVeigh duly obliged from the spot and Gage exited the arena with his face as red as the card shown to him.
He wasn't the only one embarrassed by it all. Fans rightfully vented their anger at the players long before the final whistle and Walker was so speechless that he couldn't face the waiting press.
Assistant manager Wesley Gregg did, though, and admitted that Walker was down but whether he is out remains to be seen.
“Going at it at 1-0 down we come out and hit the post and, if it goes in, then it's a different game, but would we have deserved it? That would be up for discussion,” he explained.
“But I think the players realise it. The form hasn't been there, it's not just today, and that's a concern because there's no stone left unturned in terms of preparation. We'll be in here again on Monday night at 6 o'clock going about our business again and these players will have the opportunity to put it right.
“There are players playing for contracts and maybe you didn't see it there but, make no mistake, on Monday night we go again.”
The final words, rightly, should go to DC and their proud manager Paddy Kelly.
“I thought we looked very solid, our goalkeeper was commanding and we defended when we needed to defend,” he said.
“We got a wee bit of luck when we needed it and then went up the other end and scored directly after it.”
As for moving off the foot of the table, he knows it will mean nothing if they can't follow up this win with other similar displays, starting tomorrow evening against Glentoran.
“I wasn't really interested in that but we can produce performances like that and, if we can do that on a more consistent basis, we'll not be in the position we're in,” he added.