Courageous Welders denied by late Ballymena strike

Ballymena striker Darren Boyce celebrates his goal
Ballymena striker Darren Boyce celebrates his goal

Welders boss Gary Smyth said his side’s 2-2 draw with Ballymena “felt like a defeat” after the Premiership side snatched a late equaliser.

New Ballymena signing Darren Boyce scored with four minutes of a cracking cup tie left, after it looked as though Matty Burrows’ 78th minute goal would fire the east Belfast side into round six.

Earlier, Welders defender Philip Simpson had scored at both ends, shooting the Championship side into an early lead before turning Jim Ervin’s cross into his own net under pressure from Tony Kane – that unwanted ‘goal’ for Simpson confirmed by referee Ross Dunlop after the game.

“I thought we played really well - I’m delighted with the performance,” said Smyth.

“It’s great to still be in the cup - obviously with five or 10 minutes to go you’re thinking ‘flip, we could win this’.

“I didn’t see where it (equaliser) was coming from. I thought they started to push and rush a wee bit at the end and I thought the only way would maybe be a set piece.

“But they showed great character I suppose, they have quality players and they’re obviously going to put quality balls into the box and it was a good header.

“I couldn’t ask for any more - at two each it felt like a defeat.

“I don’t think Ballymena opened us up all day. They scored from two crosses.

“We’re looking forward to the replay and as long as we’re battling and put in a performance in the replay, then you never know.

“Ballymena supporters were turning round to me at the end and saying ‘great game’ and it was - there were battles, tackles and goals. It was a classic cup tie.

“Ballymena bossed possession a bit in the second half but I thought we probably created the better chances,” he added.

“At the end of the day, two each was probably a fair result,” said Smyth.

His opposite number Glenn Ferguson admitted he was relieved his side was still in the competition, with the winners of Tuesday week’s replay facing Linfield in the next round.

“I’m not going to say we got out of jail. The Welders certainly didn’t deserve to lose the game but at 2-1 down with a few minutes to go, I’m happy to get a replay and get them back to our place.

“By hook or by crook, no matter what way you do it, you have to be in the hat albeit we’re in an either or situation but at least we have a chance to put that performance right.

“I was awake this morning at 7.30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, I was that nervous - that’s what the Irish Cup does to you.

“To be fair to the Welders, they just weren’t going to lie down.

“Most of the Welders players have played at senior level and if you give them space on the ball, they’ll hurt you.

“The important thing is we haven’t lost. They really are an honest bunch and they’re not the type who will go home tonight and think they’ve done well.

“They were sitting in the dressing room disappointed at their performance.”