Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey hammers home big warning ahead of Welders tie
Ballymena Utd 1 Cliftonville 1
David Jeffrey has warned his Ballymena United players they'll have to repeat their weekend Irish Cup heroics in the next phase of the competition.
A nerve-jangling penalty shootout victory over Cliftonville earned the Sky Blues a trip to Championship side Harland & Wolff Welders in next month's sixth round.
It will be a well-worn path for Ballymena as they travel to Tillysburn Park for the third time in four years in the Irish Cup and Jeffrey is under no illusions about the task in hand.
"It's going to be a really tough place to go," said Jeffrey.
"I watched Ballymena at the Welders a couple of years ago and they only just got through after being behind.
"I also remember Glenavon going there in the Irish Cup and being put out of the competition.
"We were looking for a home draw and didn't get that and after that we were happy to avoid another senior team but anyone who thinks it's an easy passageway into the next round needs their head examined.
"That is going to be a tough, tough game, no doubt.
"I'm just delighted for the club that we're in the sixth round.
"No one expected Ballymena to progress today because Cliftonville have made massive strides since we beat them earlier in the season," added Jeffrey.
Tony Kane had fired United ahead from a free kick before the same player saw his penalty saved by Peter Burke and, almost instantly, Ross Lavery headed Cliftonville level.
But it was United who held their nerve in the shootout, meaning that the Reds' wait for a first Irish Cup triumph since 1979 will be prolonged by at least another year.
"To come away from home and get a draw against a very good team and then go out on penalties - it's a sickener," said boss Gerard Lyttle.
"Our luck in front of goal has to change at the minute - we're hitting posts and keepers' legs and deflecting out. That has to change, hopefully sooner rather than later.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves because our season's not over - we're sitting in a good position in the league.
"If any player thinks they're going to throw the towel in - which we won't allow - then they'll not be playing.
"We have a lot to play for and we'll focus now on the league. We finished fourth last year and we're looking to better that.
"We've been hit hard by injuries, we have centre forwards in midfield and wide men in centre midfield just to fill a few holes.
"My job now is not to allow the heads to drop. We're gutted to go out the way we did. Now it's about going back to the drawing board and getting bodies fit and hopefully getting a good run going.
"Just before Christmas we were on a really good run in the league - we need to get that back and we'll do that by working hard. If you feel sorry for yourself in this league you'll get mauled," added Lyttle.
After extra-time, Ballymena win 4-3 on pens
BALLYMENA: Glendinning, Ervin, Owens, Loughran, McCracken, Taggart (Jenkins, 77 mins), Kane, Miller, Faulkner (McCloskey, 89 mins), Friel, McMurray. Unused subs: Blayney, Flynn, Lowry.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Cosgrove, McGovern, McGuinness, Ives, Catney, Winchester (J Donnelly, 63 mins), Curran, Hughes (M Donnelly, 79 mins), Lavery 7 (McNicholl, 85 mins), McDaid. Unused subs: J Mooney, A Donnelly.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)
Man of the match: Ryan Catney
Match rating: 7/10