Ballymena United 1 Coleraine 5
Roy Walker has been given a vote of confidence by his skipper Allan Jenkins but it may be a case of too little, too late for the beleaguered Ballymena United boss.
Saturday’s humiliation at the hands of derby foes Coleraine could well be the final straw, not just for the fans and the club, but for Walker himself who was considering his position over the weekend.
A look at the points column doesn’t flag it up as a crisis yet but a glance at the goals against one suggests that there’s one waiting just around the corner and being hammered by your fiercest rivals means Walker is on borrowed time.
He is an honorable man, one who passionately wants to bring success to a club that isn’t so much sleeping but as dormant as the imposing Slemish that overlooks the Showgrounds.
Whether Walker is the man to scale an even bigger mountain is a decision that is likely to rest in the hands of the manager himself as, unusually at Warden Street, patience on the part of the board has been a virtue on display.
Few could blame Walker for walking.
Certainly his current team show little of the fight and passion their manager showed as a granite-like defender and blood and thunder manager of Crusaders but Jenkins, for one, wants him to stay and try and turn the ship around.
The Scotsman was experiencing his first taste of the derby and, by the time Curtis Allen and Leon Knight had helped themselves to two goals apiece and David Scullion bagged a fifth, how he must have wished he’d been left stranded in Stranraer.
But Jenkins doesn’t feel sacking Walker is the way forward and has challenged his team-mates to pull their collective digits out.
“It was an embarrassment. We don’t even look like a football team, there’s no point dancing around it,” he admitted.
“None of us can take any credit, apart from the goalkeeper, and the goals we concede if you saw those in a boys’ team you’d be pulling your hair out.
“The only good thing is it’s early in the season. It’s eight games into the season but we said it after Carrick and after other defeats ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’, but we need to draw a line somewhere.
“The buck’s got to stop somewhere. We said in the dressing room we can’t defend and that’s not just defenders, that’s we as a team can’t defend.
“I mean 21 goals in eight games, three goals a game, how can you anticipate doing anything?
“It was embarrassing for the fans to watch, especially in a derby to go out and be gutless and heartless and whatever stick comes our way we’ve got to take it on the chin and hope to put it right next week.
“We’ve really disappointed ourselves and the boys are all down but I don’t think the people of Ballymena would even accept an apology after a display like that.
“Somebody shouted ‘you’re a disgrace to the shirt’ and I don’t think they were a millions miles from the mark.
“You hear things coming off calling for the manager to resign and players not to come back but I’ve been in football long enough and genuinely I don’t believe that’s the answer.”
As for opposite number Oran Kearney, the ramifications of his exciting young side’s win has largely overshadowed their display that allied exciting pace and movement with passion and precision finishing — all of which were noticeably absent from the home team.
But with the goals flying in and the points totting up, the boss is keen to try and keep things in perspective.
“I want to try and keep them down a bit so they don’t go out complacent but, even in the last few weeks when we’ve gone on this wee run, after the first there was a notable change in training and the second one too and they’re not getting a swagger as such but we can see a wee bit of confidence starting to seep in,” he said.
“But I’ve said to them it’s a matter of keeping that swagger but making sure it doesn’t go to their heads and ensure that we keep going out and putting in the hard work and put in performances like that.”
As for Walker, the final word, perhaps for the final time, should go to him.
“I have a lot of people to talk to, the club, my family. The club are owed a rational, cool, contemplative decision that we all have to be involved in for the betterment of the football club,” he explained.
“I’ve been involved in the game a long time and it would grieve me to leave on a sad note but I owe it to the club to get it right. I feel like the heart has been ripped out of me.
“I could give you five Cs. The first one was Crusaders, the second one was Carrick, the third one was Coleraine, the fourth one is Character-less and the fifth, well I’ll keep that for now.”
There are one or two suggestion that leap to mind but given the manager’s demeanour and the fury of the fans, it could well be cheerio to Warden Street for Walker.