Warrenpoint Town 2, Ballymena United 2

Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has a discussion with referee Evan Boyce after play is suspended due to the floodlights not working in today's game at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has a discussion with referee Evan Boyce after play is suspended due to the floodlights not working in today's game at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United ended a run of four successive league defeats with a draw in a game which was held up for 12 minutes after the Milltown floodlights failed.

The Sky Blues were leading 2-1 when referee Evan Boyce was forced to take the players off the pitch with 20 minutes remaining amid deepening darkness after attempts to get the lights working were unsuccessful.

When full lighting was restored, Daniel Hughes scored a dramatic late equaliser for the border side as United’s run of Danske Bank Premiership games without a win stretched to eight.

The home side almost went in front on 16 minutes when a Ruairi Devlin through ball sent Daniel Hughes clear down the left-hand flank. He cut inside onto his right foot and curled a right-footed shot just beyond the far post.

At the other end, a Neal Gawley corner fell to Allan Jenkins 10 yards out but the skipper, filling in at centre-back, saw his shot blocked by keeper Johnny Parr.

Ballymena enjoyed a remarkable let-off on 28 minutes when a defence-splitting pass sent Ciaran O’Connor clear. Dwayne Nelson slid outside his are to clear with his feet but only as far as Daniel Hughes who fired the loose ball goalwards, only for it to be headed off the line by Michael Ruddy. The loose ball fell to O’Connor and a goal seemed inevitable but Ruddy threw himself at the ball and deflected O’Connor’s effort behind with his head.

Ballymena replied as Gary Thompson’s cross from the right was met by Matthew Tipton. whose goalbound shot was deflected behind by defender Darren King.

Instead it was the home side who grabbed the lead on 33 minutes. Another defence-splitting pass by Liam Bagnall sent Daniel Hughes clear and this time the striker made no mistake, slotting past Nelson.

With Ballymena reeling, they almost conceded twice inside the next two minutes as firstly Nelson had to come off his line quickly to block O’Connor from another Bagnall through ball and then, from a Stephen Moan corner, Nelson was nowhere near the ball and Jonathan Cowan’s header was headed off the goal-line by Allan Jenkins.

Ballymena almost went into the break level when Tipton held the ball up before laying it into the path of the in-rushing Gary Thompson whose shot had plenty of power but was straight at keeper Parr who was able to beat the effort away.

Shortly before the interval Aaron Stewart became the latest name on the Showgrounds injury list when he went off with a shoulder injury after falling awkwardly.

Ballymena made two changes at the interval with Mark McCullagh replacing the stricken Stewart, who was taken to hospital for an X-ray, while Matthew Ferguson replaced Brian McCaul.

And within three minutes of the restart, Ballymena were level. Darren Boyce tucked a ball into the left hand channel into the path of Neal Gawley who squared for Matthew Tipton to slide home at the back post.

Warrenpoint should have regained the lead on 55 minutes when Hughes clipped an inviting cross into the path of O’Connor whose header was well kept out by Nelson.

It started to become clear that the floodlights were not functioning and referee Evan Boyce consulted with both managers before playing on.

And Ballymena went in front on 63 minutes when Gawley’s cross was headed down at the back post by Darren Boyce and Tipton was on hand to volley home from close range.

On 71 minutes the referee pointed to the changing rooms and many fans headed for the exit, believing the game had been abandoned.

However, further work was carried out on the lights and, after a 12-minute delay, the game was able to resume.

And Warrenpoint grabbed an equaliser on 82 minutes when Daniel Hughes glanced aheader into the bottom corner from a Stephen Hughes cross.

And Daniel Hughes almost won it for the home side after a jinking run which saw his eventual shot saved by Nelson while at the other end, Gawley slipped in Tipton but the striker’s fierce near post shot was beaten out by Parr.

Warrenpoint came within a whisker of winning it on 86 minutes when full-back Darren King’s long range strike came back off the foot of the post.

And there was almost drama in stoppage time when Ruairi Devlin found himself in the clear in the Ballymena box but Nelson was out quickly to smother the danger.

Warrenpoint Town: Parr, King, Cowan, McVeigh, Moan, Boyle, Devlin, Bagnall, Grant (sub McCabe 72), O’Connor (sub S Hughes 62), D Hughes. Subs (not used): Smith, Havern, M Hughes.

Ballymena United: Nelson, T Kane, Jenkins, Ruddy, Stewart (sub McCullagh 46), McCaul (sub Ferguson 46), Thompson (sub Davidson 65), Surgenor, Gawley, Boyce, Tipton. Subs (not used): Munster, E Kane.

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).