Ballymena United 1 Institute 1
Roy Walker is more your glass half-full rather than half-empty kind of man so there was a crumb of comfort to be derived from Saturday’s draw with Institute.
Certainly having lost to the men from Drumhoe in the Co-Operative Insurance Cup in the past couple of weeks, it was a hat-trick he didn’t want to see.
Thanks to Kevin Kelbie’s 69th minute equaliser that cancelled out Mark Scoltock’s early opener, he avoided that treble.
A big thank-you would also have to go to Dwayne Nelson for his fine diving save that denied former United striker Paul Brown from the spot, and while his team may not have sparkled, they at least showed grit to grind out a share of the spoils.
“I think that game on Saturday we would have lost this time last year,” admitted Walker.
“When Institute lose it, they pull everyone behind the ball, so we need to learn how to break teams down.
“We need to be patient, and move the defence about. I thought the referee could have played a couple of advantages when we were on the break but he stops the play and that lets them regroup.
“That’s frustrating and everytime you shout you get told off for shouting about that, but things like that can have an impact on the tempo of a game, and Institute just tried to slow it down.”
Stute boss John Gregg agreed that his side, who edged another point away from struggling Lisburn Distillery at the basement, had failed to build on their start, but is happy that with key men back in the fold, including goalscorer Scoltock, that they will be looking up and not over their shoulder.
“I haven't changed my tune,” said Gregg.
“I'm at a club like Institute that had to replace Ruairi Boyle, who's just coming back, Mark Scoltock, who's coming back from a broken cheekbone, Kevin Ramsey, who missed the first nine games, Sean Friars who missed six weeks, and I said all along that when you take those boys out of my squad, I don't have a 22-man or 24-man squad to replace them — I have 16 Irish League players and a reserve team.
“When we lose players it hurts us, but I said when I got those players back we'd be a handful.
“Now they're coming back. Stephen Parkhouse, Paddy McLaughlin and Austin Friel all played for the reserves and they have to be added to the squad, so all being well we'll get better.”