Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray savoured the standing ovation his side received after giving Ballymena United an almighty cup scare but admitted: “I would rather have been booed off for beating them!”
Having been the better side for much of the game, the Championship One outfit had a long journey home to mull over a heart-breaking loss after coming within a couple of minutes of securing a well-deserved replay.
Instead, in an ironic kick in the teeth, the knockout blow was delivered by ‘one of their own’, with Alan Davidson, who lives in the border town, firing home a luscious angled drive to break Warrenpoint’s resistance.
Notwithstanding the fact that Warrenpoint had exceeded even their manager’s expectations in the level of their performance, Gray admitted: “It’s still every bit as hard when you get beat, especially in today’s fashion, but we will take the positives from it.
“There were certainly more positives than negatives from our point of view.
“We’re very pleased with our performance, particularly in the second half and hopefully we can get to a position of playing this sort of opposition week in, week out.
“We want to go in that direction whether it’s this year, next year or in years to come – certainly the management team and the players want it to be as soon as possible.”
After falling behind to Shane Dolan’s first half opener, Warrenpoint laid siege to Ballymena at the start of the second half and their pressure was eventually rewarded when Mark Hughes’ fleet-footed run set up Keith Johnston for a deserved equaliser before Davidson’s late strike ensured United’s progress.
The relief was etched on Ballymena boss Glenn Ferguson’s face as he looked forward to a mouth-watering sixth round rumble against bitter rivals Coleraine.
“We didn’t do enough to justify winning that game but cup matches are funny and we ended up winning it and I’m sure Warrenpoint are gutted.
“Our downfall was that we didn’t work as hard as we needed to. I’m by no means pleased with the performance but the most important thing was that we were in the hat.”