Ballymena say poor refereeing contributed to Roy Walker's exit

Ballymena United chairman Robert Cupples has said bad refereeing in the local game was a contributory factor to Roy Walker's decision to step down as manager of the club.

Walker quit the job after Tuesday's 1-0 League Cup semi-final by Crusaders.

"One of the main reasons is the refereeing. It's just not right," Cupples told BBC Sport on Wednesday.

Joe McCall has taken caretaker charge at the Showgrounds and the board will discuss the issue further on Thursday.

McCall has been in charge of the youth team at Ballymena.

Cupples claimed that the Braidmen had been the victim of another incorrect refereeing decision early in Tuesday's semi-final when Neil Lowry fell in the penalty area after a challenge by Paul Leeman.

"When you go back to last night's game and see a young fellow straight through the middle and taken down from behind. I don't know," added the frustrated Ballymena chairman.

Cupples added that board members attempted to make Walker change his mind after he announced that he was stepping down after over three years in charge.

"He had already spoken to the players and was obviously disappointed. What could we do? We've got to look forward now."

On 23 November, Walker hinted that he would step down from the Showgrounds job in the New Year if results didn't improve.

Therefore, his decision to go on Tuesday night was something of a surprise.

Cupples said that the manager had always received "full support at board level and he does appreciate that very, very much".

Ballymena player Conor Downey said the players were "devastated" at Walker's decision.

"We didn't think it would come to this. He's a very good man and a very good manager."

Downey added that Walker had been "let down" by the Ballymena squad.