Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey hails his players but warns of tougher test to come
Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey was delighted to put one over his old team but knows an even tougher task awaits just around the corner.
Jeffrey watched his new charges dismantle 10-man Linfield at the Showgrounds as the Sky Blues marched into the quarter-finals of the NI League Cup.
On Saturday they welcome Danske Bank Premiership champions Crusaders to the same venue, with the memories of their 6-0 opening day humbling by Stephen Baxter's men still smarting.
"The players are doing very well, I keep reminding them of that first day against Crusaders," said Jeffrey, whose men are now on a nine-match unbeaten run.
"That was a very harsh lesson for them but since then they have worked and they have worked tremendously hard.
"On Saturday we'll see how far they've come because as tremendous as they have played this evening, the league is our priority.
"Certainly we're going to enjoy tonight and we are delighted, so pleased for the players, and we look forward to the draw for the next round."
Jeffrey's joy wasn't shared by the current Blues' boss David Healy, who blasted that his side's display was far from acceptable and refused to blame Ross Gaynor's sending off for his side's showing over the 90 minutes.
"You've still got to be better before the sending off. We were already chasing the game and they wanted it more than us and it showed," he said.
He also refused to hold Sunday's IRN-BRU Cup encounter with Queen of the South in Scotland accountable for the result.
"No, we can't blame Sunday for tonight. We can't make excuses. We had to make a couple of changes from Sunday, but the changes weren't good enough, not one. We just weren't good enough tonight."
One man who was though was the Braidmen's fledging keeper Ben McCauley, thrown in at the deep end with Alan Blayney injured and on-loan Reece Glendinning unable to play against his parent club.
"I said to young Ben that tonight he would have 10 big brothers around him and that's exactly what they did," added Jeffrey.
"They protected him at every chance and that can only do great things for his confidence.
"It was a great night for him and his family, his mother and father were in the crowd, so it was brilliant for them to see.
"It was tremendous for the lad and I don't want to single out any individual performance tonight but Johnny McMurray and Cathair Friel were both excellent this evening."