Ballymena United 3 Glenavon 3
Prize for understatement of the weekend goes to Ballymena United’s Albert Watson for his classic ‘I can ping a ball’ after his thundering drive almost ripped the rigging off the goalposts.
It may not have been the goal that completed a second great escape in a row at the Showgrounds, but it set the ball rolling and luckily the net was there or the ball would be just about heading up the main street in Carnlough by now.
With two minutes to go and, as unhappy punters headed for the Warden Street exit with their side 3-1 in arrears to a vastly superior Glenavon side Watson, frustrated by events, collected the ball, ambled out of defence and unleashed a rocket that Andrew Plummer hadn’t a prayer of saving.
While that was the brawn, there was beauty to come two minutes later when Gary McCutcheon grabbed his second of the game — and seventh of the season —to pull off an unlikely comeback with the cool finish of an ace marksman.
It was cruel luck on a Glenavon side that totally bossed proceedings for 89 minutes and could — and should — have had more than Gary Hamilton’s double and a Kyle Neill header to show for their troubles.
While the returning Ryan Brown must certainly hold his hands up for dishing up Hamilton’s opener on a plate, he produced four top drawer saves to ensure that Watson’s wonder strike wasn’t simply a consolation effort.
And Watson revealed it was frustration at his side’s lack-lustre display that prompted him to take his anger out on the poor ball, that must have been whimpering as it sailed though the bracing Braid air.
“I know I can strike a ball, I can ping a ball, so I just seen it open up, kept my eye on it and hit and hoped for the best, the best being that it nestled in the top corner and it did,” he explained.
“We didn’t play well at all. I turned to Denver (Gage) when we were going forward and said ‘we need something special here’ because we didn’t look like scoring. How many corners did we have today and we never looked like scoring from them and that’s not good enough.
“Wee Cutchy said to me ‘we don’t look like scoring’ and then the ball came out to me and there was only one thing on my mind to be honest.
“We didn’t look like scoring from wee passes down the side so I just got the ball and hit is as hard as I could, making sure I kept my eye on it and kept my technique right and I’m glad it went in.
“Gary Haveron said to me after I scored we’d go and get an equaliser because it gave us a lift and we needed that. Last week when we were 3-1 down and Mark Surgenor popped up to score and gave us that lift.
“It keeps everyone to the end and there will be nobody leaving from 85 minutes on now and they’ll stay to the end. But to be fair to the team and the boss, we wouldn’t have done that last year.
“We’re a lot fitter this year and keep going right to the end. Last week Linfield had eight full-timers and we looked fitter than them and today we didn’t play well but we deserved to win last week so it’s swings and roundabouts.”
As for Glenavon’s beleaguered boss Marty Quinn (inset), he must be wondering just what he did in a previous life to be punished in this manner.
“At 3-1 we were coasting along and maybe our ball retention wasn’t as good as it had been earlier and obviously Ballymena threw the sink at us, they had nothing to lose,” he said.
“They went three at the back, they got people forward at every opportunity, which you would expect any team to do, but unfortunately we didn’t defend it and hold onto what we had and it’s another bad day at the office.
“It was a great strike from Albert, but you ask the question why wasn’t he closed down, why was he able to get the ball, take a touch and then pull the trigger, but I’m not pointing the finger at any of my players because I thought they were all excellent.”