Ballymena press on toward top six

Warrenpoint's Jonathan Parr is sent-off
Warrenpoint's Jonathan Parr is sent-off

Both managers agreed the first half dismissal of Warrenpoint goalkeeper Jonathan Parr was the game-changing moment as Ballymena United maintained their push for a top six place in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Parr was red-carded after bringing down Allan Jenkins for a penalty close to the interval with David Cushley scoring from the spot to add to his earlier effort.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Warrenpoint got back in the game through Stephen McCabe and although Darren Boyce restored Ballymena’s two-goal lead, a late goal from Stephen Hughes ensured a nervy finale for United boss Glenn Ferguson.

“I warned the players at half-time about how hard it was going to be. Psychologically, when a team goes down to 10 men it’s usually tough.

“Playing into a stiff breeze, we needed to be good on the ball and for 15 minutes we couldn’t get out of our own half.

“I thought we were very lax and didn’t have any drive in the first 15-20 minutes.

“We knew how hard Warrenpoint’s challenge would be and thankfully, without playing overly well, we’ve managed to pick up the three points.

“Going by the letter of the law and the current format of modern-day football, it’s a red card.

“We’ve been subjected to it a couple of times ourselves this season but, honestly, I think it’s a nonsense rule - the keeper has made a genuine attempt to get the ball, a penalty and a yellow card should suffice.

“Thankfully we stuck the penalty away but at 2-0, the players must have thought they were comfortable which obviously wasn’t the case,” added Ferguson.

For opposite number Barry Gray, the Parr red card meant his half-time team talk went completely out the window.

“There’s no point in us dwelling on the negatives of the first half. We could be very critical about the first goal and how we gifted it to them and at that stage we were just wanting to come in at half-time one down and get a chance to re-group.

“But then a minute before half-time something else happens that just takes over and you have a whole new stack of hurdles to jump over.

“You have a few minutes to make a lot of big decisions like who goes in goal and we decided to make two attacking changes and those players made an impact immediately which set the tempo for the second half.”

Midfielder Shaun Parr initially went into goal after the red card before skipper John Boyle became the third player to take the gloves as he went between the posts for the second half.

“We didn’t want to lose a central defender just until we got to half-time - we probably thought that John Boyle would end up going in. The last man rule is a silly rule, isn’t it?”

The argument is if a keeper brings a player down, he’s always likely to be last man and denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

“If it had been a yellow card and a penalty, I don’t think Glenn would have worried too much about it.

“The players went out and worked hard and at times in the second half you forget you only have 10 men and no keeper. They did what we asked them to do at half-time and take the game to Ballymena.

“We showed a lot of character - I don’t think I could have asked too much more of the players in the second half - and I said to the players afterwards, that’s what’s going to keep us up this season,” added Gray.