Ballymena United 2 Linfield 0
While the Ballymena Showgrounds’ resident spinmaster had dusted off his CD of festive hits for Saturday, David Jeffrey will no doubt be digging out that old Journey album from the loft.
Having slumped to a third league defeat in four outings, the message blasting from this DJ is very much one of Don’t Stop Believin’.
And while the Blues dropped a place to third in the Christmas chart that really matters, thanks to a double whammy from Darren Lockhart and Kevin Kelbie just before the break, a chance to leapfrog above Glentoran on Boxing Day is sure to be Jeffrey’s No.1 request.
To do that though his side will have to cut out simply baffling defensive lapses and strikers who have had about as many hits as Joe Dolce.
Mark McAllister, Curtis Allen, Paul Munster all spurned chances, and things could have been even worse as Chris Ramsey and David Cushley both hit the woodwork for the Sky Blues.
They will certainly hope that this win, their first since October, will not be a one-hit wonder when they face their own parochial appointment with Coleraine.
In between times though, Jeffrey has plenty to ponder and admitted that festive cheer will be in short supply.
“I’ve been through tough times at Linfield as a player in Roy Coyle’s time when we went through difficult periods, and I remember under Eric Bowyer going through difficult periods,” he said.
“You actually get into the situation where you’re not any less determined, you go out and give all that you can give, and the players did that in the first half an hour.
“They don’t take their chances and then a goal goes against them and there can be a fragility because you think ‘is this ever going to change or turn itself around?’
“The only thing you’ve got to keep doing is that you’ve got to keep believing. You must keep believing, you must continue to be confident, you must continue to know it will turn.
“And the only way it does turn is by working desperately hard and that’s what you do and then you want that wee bit of fortune.”
And he remains confident that despite Crusaders jumping to the top of the table, his panel has the ability to lift the Gibson Cup.
“I believe in them immensely, I believe there is ability and talent and they are experiencing a desperately tough time but if they can play to their best and get results going again, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t win the title.
“I’m blessed with being the manager of this club, but I’m a supporter of this club and it hurts like there’s no tomorrow.
“I remember as a player if you were beaten and played well that was some consolation, but as a manager when you’re beaten there’s nothing to console you, absolutely nothing. Winning is great but being beaten is desperate.”
United assistant manager Jim Grattan was delighted to get back to winning ways and even happier that Kelbie, the subject of much transfer speculation, showed what he was made of.
“They were two fantastic goals, the second in particular, with great link-up play and Kevin, who hasn’t been doing what he’s good at recently, made a great turn in the box and scored,” he said.
“It was like the old Kevin Kelbie. I told him to get all this nonsense out of his head and that the only place to impress people is on the pitch. He’s got us to impress, first and foremost, and if he wants to impress anyone else he should do it on the pitch.
“He’s also got to keep his image up with our fans. I told him he’s been a hero here for five years and don’t let that go.
“It doesn’t matter what happens; if you stay here, or if you go, but let people remember you here for the right reasons and be the real Kelbie.”