IRISH LEAGUE: Cliftonville and Ballymena managers agree with decision to stop match

Officials and players leave the ground after the match at Solitude was abandoned due to adverse weather conditions
Officials and players leave the ground after the match at Solitude was abandoned due to adverse weather conditions

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey saluted a rare and notable distinction at Solitude last night – everybody left the ground in full agreement with the referee’s decision-making.

Ballygowan official Evan Boyce abandoned the game at half-time as swirling winds made not only for a poor spectacle but also endangered the safety of players, spectators and staff alike as Cliftonville’s groundstaff battled to secure advertising hoardings around the pitch’s perimeter fence.

Indeed, just one corner flag remained standing when ref Boyce declared: “In the interests of health and safety, I don’t think it was appropriate for the game to continue and reluctantly decided to abandon the fixture.”

Sky Blues supremo Jeffrey agreed.

“I think half-time, at 1-1, was the perfect time to end it,” he said.

“Nobody’s in the lead, nobody has an advantage and I don’t think there can be any complaints. Everybody in the ground can see what was happening and the referee’s one hundred per cent right to abandon the game.”

Cliftonville had led courtesy of Jude Winchester with United levelling when Kyle Owens’ strike deflected in off Levi Ives but the longer the game went on, the more bizarre events became with Ballymena’s Tony Kane – who struggled to take a series of corner kicks due to the breeze constantly moving the ball – more or less tackled by a strong gust of wind as he attempted an effort from distance.

The half ended in similarly ludicrous conditions when, having watched home goalkeeper Brian Neeson try to take a free-kick four times, the referee decided enough was enough and whistled for the interval – during which he took the decision that enough was enough.

“I’m generally one for playing on regardless but he’s completely right to call it off,” said Reds boss Barry Gray.

“Obviously health and safety is important and has to be the top priority but, even in footballing terms, it was a farce – the ball wouldn’t sit still and nobody could pass it, so I think everyone’s happy just to get off the pitch.

“I mean, we could be sitting here an hour down the line talking about somebody making a mistake that costs their team a goal or a point and that could have been down to the weather and nobody wants that or to have those sort of excuses.”