Ballymena United 3 Donegal Celtic 3
Having waved goodbye to their 17-match unbeaten run on Tuesday night at Cliftonville, with 45 minutes gone at the Showgrounds on Saturday Glenn Ferguson must have been contemplating a rather more unwelcome sequence of results.
Ballymena United were three goals down, and deservedly so, against a Donegal Celtic team who came roaring out the blocks inspired by the predatory instincts of the rejuvenated Mark Miskimmin and the midfield muscle of the re-born Sean Cleary.
Both men got on the scoresheet and also combined to set up Ryan Deans to score as Stephen Small’s men threatened to run riot.
A lifeline was thrown to the Sky Blues by referee Andrew Davey’s decision to award a penalty in stoppage time when Gary Thompson tumbled theatrically over outrushing keeper John Connolly and skipper Allan Jenkins converted.
Johnny Taylor headed home on the hour mark and then teenage striker Jamie Davidson levelled matters with 11 minute to go to complete the comeback.
“We set up to win the game and we didn’t and we’re disappointed about that, but I always say to them ‘if you can’t win it, don’t lose it’ and we were able to come back,” said Ferguson, keen to erase memories of that Solitude reversal.
“Once you’ve lost there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no point dwelling on what’s happened negatively. We try to be positive and, being positive, I told them to try and win again and go on another run of unbeaten matches. We’re unbeaten today so hopefully we can carry that on.”
For Small, it was a day of mixed emotions. There was obvious frustration at throwing away a three-goal start but plenty to be pleased about with their exciting and powerful attacking football
“To a man I can’t fault the effort of my players and their mental and physical strength. All I’ll say is that Ballymena fought tooth and nail to get back into the game,” he said.
“They got there three goals and we struggled to contain their momentum, but that happens in football.
“We’re in a scrap but I don’t think you’ll see a team manufacture three better goals than in the first-half and play as good football as we did.
“We just have to work on a way of standing up defensively and sustaining that creativity into the second half of games when we’re in complete control.”