It was a case of Moan by name and nature for Barry Gray as he surveyed the latest setback in his side’s Danske Bank Premiership relegation battle.
The Warrenpoint Town boss was fuming as the first half red card for Stephen Moan which not only turned this game on its head, but also cost the border side the services of the defender for the biggest game in the club’s history – Tuesday night’s JBE League Cup semi-final against Cliftonville.
Moan was sent packing by referee Andrew Davey who adjudged that he had kept out Johnny Taylor’s goalbound header with his arm, with the game scoreless.
United looked to be coasting to victory as Allan Jenkins’ hat-trick saw them race into a 3-0 lead before Stephen Murray’s double hauled Warrenpoint back into contention, only for Kyle McVey’s late goal to finally settle the issue in Ballymena’s favour.
“The sending off was completely wrong,” fumed Gray.
“We’ve watched the footage back and I’ve asked Andrew to watch the footage.
“I asked him for an explanation at half-time and he talked more about Stephen’s reaction coming off the pitch as opposed to the decision.”
The defeat means Warrenpoint remain cut adrift at the foot of the table but Gray insists: “I can’t fault the players at all today.
“They have had to deal with quite a bit outside their control but to bring it back to a poor refereeing decision, we have a cup semi-final coming up and one of our main defenders is going to sit in the stand watching it.
“I’m very positive about the reaction and the response we had from the players.”
Looking ahead to that semi-final, the Town boss said: “We have to give it a go. We’re at home - not that that makes any difference because we haven’t won a game at home all season!
“But it’s a break from the slog of the league and it’s a big occasion for us,” he added.
Gray’s opposite number Glenn Ferguson said: “I didn’t see the penalty incident to be honest. It was a great header by Johnny but I didn’t see how they kept it out.
“The referee had made his mind up very quickly because he gave the penalty and the red card came out straight away.”
Ferguson was unimpressed with his side’s performance, despite a four-goal salvo built around Scotsman Jenkins’ first career hat-trick.
“I came in at half-time and I wasn’t happy. Our performance was lack-lustre and we weren’t on it at all,” he said.
“I had a right go at them but I told them if we got another goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half we would get another one and the game would be killed off.
“For the first 15 minutes of the second half they did exactly what we wanted them to do but then they decided to switch off again and made it a really uncomfortable wee spell.
“Thankfully we got the fourth goal to kill it off but our performance was inept - it wasn’t good enough but we were still able to get the points which was the only bright note,” added Ferguson.