Opinion: Defeat brings a harsh dose of reality to United

A picture which encapsulates Ballymena United's defeat at Ballinamallard on Saturday as Mallards player David Kee helps lift grounded Unuited skipper Allan Jenkins. Picture: Press Eye.
A picture which encapsulates Ballymena United's defeat at Ballinamallard on Saturday as Mallards player David Kee helps lift grounded Unuited skipper Allan Jenkins. Picture: Press Eye.

As reality checks go, it was quite an eye-opener.

There was certainly ample opportunity to mull over the finer details of Ballymena United’s 3-0 defeat at Ballinamallard during the 75-mile homeward trip from Fermanagh.

I believe - or at least I certainly hope - that Saturday can be put down, quite simply, to a collective off-day.

It was just one of those days where United did not function and where they could not get anything going at all and, more surprisingly, didn’t compete.

When you put those two things together, against a Ballinamallard side which was very much a deserving winner, the final outcome wasn’t all that surprising.

It always strikes me as strange how Ballymena have such a miserable record at Ferney Park where they have now failed to hit the net in four visits.

It’s a billiard table-like playing surface and a big pitch which should suit Ballymena’s gameplan neatly.

That sorry statistic rarely looked like changing on Saturday in a woefully sub-standard United performance.

It took me back to the Irish Cup final defeat where, 10 minutes after the final whistle, I asked a colleague to name me three Ballymena players he would have said played well. I’m still waiting for his response.

I always think you can get a fairly accurate view of which Ballymena United will turn up from the opening 15 minutes of a game.

I’ve watched the Sky Blues take games by the scruff of the neck from the off this season but on Saturday, they just seemed a yard off the pace.

It was a performance which started badly and didn’t improve significantly.

If you didn’t believe Glenn Ferguson’s often-used comment about the need to out work and outfight your opponent in this league, Saturday’s game should be food for thought.

Away from the weekend, and I can’t finish without making reference to the ongoing saga surrounding Allan Jenkins’ on-off suspension.

Whether or not the United skipper and Shane McCabe will have to serve additional two game suspensions following their dismissals in the recent game at Glenavon will rest with the Irish Football Association’s Disciplinary Committee.

It’s worth noting that, although the administration and governance of the three top divisions in this country is now under the remit of the Northern Ireland Football League, disciplinary matters are still controlled by the IFA.

The manner in which they have treated referee Raymond Hetherington has been deplorable, in my opinion.

He came under criticism for decisions he made in that game but had the good grace to come out, admit he made a mistake and seek to have the red cards reduced to yellows.

His reward, rather than be backed by the IFA for his actions, was to be hung out to dry by the governing body who refused to sanction that move, meaning that the two players missed their sides’ midweek victories.

In that moment, the IFA has almost certainly guaranteed that referees won’t admit to any errors they make in the future.

After all, who wants to be subjected to ridicule for having the temerity to admit they got something wrong?

One way in which the increasing chasm of disrespect among players and supporters towards officials can start to improve is if referees are prepared to admits mistakes in some of the game-changing, season-altering, career-affecting decisions they make.

The only way in which this whole sorry episode can be compounded is if the additional ban both players were due is upheld - that would result in both players missing three games for what the referee has now deemed was merely a yellow card offence.

Given how this whole episode has unfolded and past experience of Ballymena-related matters involving the IFA, you’ll forgive me if I don’t stake too much upon the outcome that most people feel would be the correct one being reached.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)