Belfast Telegraph

We were all happy to end 'farce' match early, says Cliftonville boss


By Conor McLaughlin

Both managers gave their full backing to referee Evan Boyce following the abandonment of last night's clash between Cliftonville and Ballymena United.

With the tie level at 1-1 following 45 minutes of play, the Ballygowan official took the decision to call a halt to proceedings with Solitude firmly in the grip of swirling winds that were endangering the safety of players, officials and spectators alike.

"In the interests of health and safety, I don't think it was appropriate for the game to continue and reluctantly decided to abandon the fixture," said Boyce afterwards.

Jude Winchester's opener had been cancelled out when Ballymena defender Kyle Owens' strike deflected in off Levi Ives but, though both teams were desperate for three Danske Bank Premiership points, the respective bosses acknowledged that the referee had little choice.

"I'm generally one for playing on regardless but he's completely right to call it off," said Reds boss Barry Gray.

"Obviously health and safety is important and has to be the top priority but, even in footballing terms, it was a farce - the ball wouldn't sit still and nobody could pass it, so I think everyone's happy just to get off the pitch.

"I mean, we could be sitting here an hour down the line talking about somebody making a mistake that costs their team a goal or a point and that could have been down to the weather, and nobody wants that or to have those sort of excuses."

Indeed, time and again throughout the 45 minutes of action, play was constantly held up as players struggled to take set pieces. Ballymena's Tony Kane was virtually tackled by a gust of wind as he attempted a free-kick, while the half ended with home keeper Brian Neeson trying time and again to restart the match, only for the ball to blow away from where he had set.

As Solitude staff battled to reinforce advertising hoardings that were threatening to rip away from the pitch's perimeter fence, spectators were notified by a PA announcement that the fixture had been abandoned.

"I think half-time, at 1-1, was the perfect time to end it," said United boss David Jeffrey.

"Nobody's in the lead, nobody has an advantage and I don't think there can be any complaints. Everybody in the ground can see what was happening and the referee's 100% right to abandon the game."

Belfast Telegraph


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