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European joy not in my thoughts, says Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey

By Stuart McKinley

David Jeffrey has told his Ballymena United players to forget about the Europa League play-off until they have secured their place in the Danske Bank Premiership.

And Jeffrey is also warning not to expect Glenavon to be nursing an Irish Cup semi-final hangover when they clash at Mourneview Park tonight.

Ballymena have taken five points from three games since Jeffrey took over from Glenn Ferguson and despite the fact that a win would move them to within a point of Dungannon Swifts - who they face on Saturday - in the race for seventh place, Jeffrey is continuing to look over his shoulder until the job of staving off the threat of relegation is complete.

"We are in a relegation battle and the European play-off is not in my thoughts," said Jeffrey.

"We want to get as much as we can out of every game and if we keep winning then we'll see where that takes us.

"To even take our eye slightly off the ball would be so foolish.

"At Linfield when it came to winning titles I always said that until it was mathematically impossible for us to be caught we didn't talk about titles.

"Now it's the same, until we are mathematically safe then we are in a relegation battle and we won't be looking any further than that.

"It's not bluff on my part. Anything we get from this game will be a bonus. The real fight for us starts on Saturday against Dungannon."

Jeffrey finds himself in a very different situation than during his days as Linfield manager.

Back then he was targeting league titles, but having taken over at Warden Street at a time when Ballymena were just five points off the bottom of the table he finds himself with a totally new set of circumstances to consider.

"It's very interesting at this end of the table and the major difference for me is in terms of the results that I look for," said Jeffrey.

"Before I would be wanting to know how Cliftonville, Crusaders and Glentoran had got on. Now the matches I am interested in are Ballinamallard United, Carrick Rangers, Dungannon Swifts, Portadown and Warrenpoint and how those affect us."

Glenavon are on a high after their thrilling 4-3 win over Crusaders in Friday night's Irish Cup semi-final.

The Mourneview Park faithful will already be looking forward to - and relishing - the May 7 decider with Linfield and rather than that being the focus, Jeffrey expects Gary Hamilton's men to be buoyed by their victory and motivated to stay in a rich vein of form before the final.

"I watched Glenavon on Friday night and they were very good," said Jeffrey.

"To come back three times takes a great deal of character.

"I already knew Gary Hamilton when I was manager of Linfield, but in my time out of the game I got to know him even better and there is no way that he will let his players start to think about the Irish Cup final.

"They finished third last season, Gary has always said that he wants to improve year-on-year and they will be aiming for second place.

"That will be the target and he will be determined to achieve it and that will make this a massive test for us."

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