Jeffrey optimistic over his new arrivals
Ballymena United 3 - Carrick Rangers 1
David Jeffrey believes his Ballymena United squad can approach the closing stage of the season with confidence thanks to his January reinforcements.
Jeffrey feels that his new arrivals - winger Joe McKinney, goalkeeper Tim Allen, former Northern Ireland international Kevin Braniff and Crusaders youngster Michael Kerr - will boost a squad still targeting a first ever top six finish in the Danske Bank Premiership as well as chasing League Cup and Irish Cup glory.
"We needed at least one (player) in because it would have been a big challenge to sustain what we have done so far this season," said Jeffrey.
"It's been a tremendous transfer window's work and (assistant manager) Bryan McLoughlin and chief scout Paul McAreavey deserve great credit."
The weekend capture of the talismanic Braniff has whetted Ballymena fans' appetite and Jeffrey says: "We were able to agree terms with Glenavon and then with Kevin - he fits very well into our structure and he is very much buying into the journey that we're on.
"He is exceptional on his day. He can play up front, he can play in the number 10 role that people talk about or he can play in the middle of the park, he's extremely strong and very intelligent and can win you a game out of nothing," added Jeffrey.
Saturday's League Cup final rehearsal looked to be heading for a stalemate after Paddy McNally's header cancelled out Cathair Friel's first half opener for United. But Friel then hit his 19th goal of the campaign with a minute left and Johnny McMurray's scrambled injury time effort rubber-stamped the Sky Blues' victory.
"To lose it in the manner we did was disappointing," said Carrick boss Aaron Callaghan.
"The League Cup final at this moment in time is not in my head. We're just trying to get points on a weekly basis to try and stay in this league.
"We have been putting together performances over the past few weeks but we don't seem to be getting the rub of the green.
"But when I see the players putting in performances like that and giving me every effort, that pleases me going forward because it shows they care."
BALLYMENA: Glendinning, Ervin, Owens, Flynn, Millar, T Kane, Jenkins, McCloskey (Lowry, 78 mins), McKinney (Faulkner, 69 mins), Friel, McMurray. Unused subs: E Kane, Wallace, Allen.
Carrick: Neeson, Chapman, Foster, McNally, McCullough, Kelly (Mustapha, 77 mins), Taggart, Noble, McAllister (Morrow, 75 mins), M Murray, O'Connor (TJ Murray, 65 mins). Unused subs: Surgenor, Rice.
Referee: Steven Taylor (Belfast)
Man of the match: Cathair Friel
Match rating: 7/10