Opinion: Milltown trip proves anything but light fantastic

Ballymena playes talk to Referee Evan Boyce as play is suspended due to the floodlights not working in Saturday's match at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena playes talk to Referee Evan Boyce as play is suspended due to the floodlights not working in Saturday's match at Warrenpoint Town. Picture: Press Eye.

Drama, excitement and a helping of mild farce thrown in for good measure.

Certainly Ballymena United’s weekend visit to warrenpoint Town produced no shortage of talking points, if not the number of points that the Sky Blues really craved.

There was even the added extra of an additional 15 minutes into the admission price - what self-respecting Ballymena person could ask for more!

It’s perhaps indicative of the reversal in United’s fortunes in recent weeks that once they had got themselves into a position to end a run of seven league games without a win, some sort of external factor once again came into play.

Unfortunately another fiasco with the Milltown floodlights was enough to disrupt United and give the home side the chance to re-group and eventually force an equaliser which, if we’re going to be fair, wasn’t undeserved.

It was clear from half-time that something wasn’t right and as the gloom began to deepen in the second half, questions were being asked as to whether the game would actually finish.

Referee Evan Boyce probably thought the only issue he would have to contend with was whether or not the pitch would be playable by 3pm following a morning pitch inspection.

But as the referee cast increasingly anxious glances towards his fourth official as the second period ticked away, it became increasingly obvious that the match was not going to be completed without the need for the now infamous floodlights, problems with which have dogged Warrenpoint’s time in senior football.

I believe the referee was completely correct to take the players off - after all, player safety is paramount and falls under the remit of the man in charge.

In this day and age, and with the story of former Ballymena player Paul Brown being awarded £7,000 compensation after breaking his arm falling on the Showgrounds stock car track some years ago in my mind, I couldn’t help but think, what a legal can of worms could have been opened in the case of a player being badly injured in a match played in semi-darkness.

My only gripe was why the referee waited as long as he did to take the players off when he had a perfectly good opportunity to do so when he spoke to both managers with the score at 1-1.

If a halt had had to be called at that point, there would have been a few grumbles but nothing to the extent of what it would have been had the game been abandoned with Ballymena 2-1 ahead.

Fortunately enough, the electrical gremlins were banished in time for the match to finish even if Warrenpoint’s late equaliser left United with that sinking feeling - although not as much as a leak from the showers which left the visiting dressing room covered in water on a day which Warrenpoint will want to quickly forget.

As they tip-toed past an ever-increasing pool of water on their way out of the dressing room, United’s players were informed that their League Cup semi-final opponents would be Ballinamallard away from home - it was a fitting finale to a day when not much went right for the Sky Blues.

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