Murphy lays down law as Glenavon show teeth
Ballymena United 3 Glenavon 6: There was a certain irony in the air that adjacent to the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday a gala called 'Bark in the Park' was being hosted.
This event for our faithful four-legged friends was to be drowned out, though, by howls of derision from the Ballymena United faithful who had just watched their side chase their tails for 90 harrowing minutes.
It was a walk in the park for Glenavon and in William Murphy they had a man who displayed everything that the home side didn't – passion, determination, class and, above all, a will to win.
He showed that there's plenty of life in the old dog yet and narrowly edged out Guy Bates for the man of the match accolade, but it was a close call.
Bates is a nightmare for defenders.
Big, bustling, brash and bombastic, but he's more than that. He has a handy knack of popping up with goals, two of them on Saturday, and also chips in by creating chances for others.
It is this team ethic that encourages the Englishman that better things are just around the corner for the men from Mourneview.
Bates' brace and a goal apiece for Murphy and Mark Farren ensured the game was over at the break. Neil Lowry and Gary Thompson responded after the interval but United were caught by another Farren sucker punch and a late Andy McGrory header before Johnny Taylor's last gasp consolation completed the scoring.
"I wouldn't say it was a perfect start," explained Bates.
"We attack as a team and defend as a team and we were delighted the way we went forward but we could have defended a bit better because we conceded a few and that's something we're going to have to tighten up on.
"I think last year we would have been a little nervous when it got back to 4-2, but when you bring in the quality of the players we have – the Winkie Murphys, the David Raineys – they bring in a certain amount of composure, a voice of reason in there and having Eddie McCallion in there gives you a sense of security.
"What they bring to the changing room, what they bring into the team in general and the young boys coming through is invaluable, because we have some outstanding players coming through, and the likes of Murphy, McCallion, Rainey and big Ciaran Martyn are winners and the experience they can pass on is excellent.
"We're not getting carried away at all.
"We know it's three points and it's three very valuable points, but we have to try and push on."
How Glenn Ferguson could Do with Murphy, his old Linfield team-mate, to shake up his side, second best across the pitch and plagued again by the second rate defending that strangled his team last season.
"It could be a struggle, there's no doubt about it," he warned afterwards.
"If we play the way we want to play and defend the way we want them to defend, then the struggle won't be as hard as they're going to make it if they keep doing what they're doing.
"The players are good players. It's just lapses in concentration that's costing them and that's the disappointing thing.
"Hopefully it won't be a struggle, but it's not going to get any easier.
"Next week we go to Seaview, and then it's Portadown, so every game is going to be tough."
Spike is a man whose bite is worse than his bark – and it's time his charges obeyed his commands or it could be walkies for an awful lot of them.