Belfast Telegraph

Pressure on Glenavon in European shoot-out, says Jeffrey

 

By Billy Weir

Despite home advantage, and finishing two places above Glenavon in the Danske Bank Premiership table, David Jeffrey insists that his Ballymena United side are underdogs going into this Friday evening's Europa League play-off final.

Whether it's mind games or psychology is a debate for another day, but you can't argue with the United manager's facts with form showing that in four games this season between the two, Glenavon have picked up three wins and a draw.

Goals seem guaranteed at Warden Street on Friday, the two teams both grabbing nap hands in their respective semi-final wins over Dungannon Swifts and Cliftonville, and those four meetings in the regular season resulting in no fewer than 21 goals, the bulk of them for the Mourneview men.

A rueful smile crosses Jeffrey's chops when talk turns to his side's kamikaze approach to the game but he is unlikely to change something that has worked so well in his first season in charge of the Sky Blues.

"We're entertaining," was his masterly piece of understatement following Monday evening's madcap 5-2 win over the Swifts, where the game looked to be in the bag with United three goals and a man to the good following the fifth-minute dismissal of Andrew Burns.

"At half-time we told people to concentrate and to manage the game... well, Ballymena United don't know how to do that," he explained.

"This club is going to be re-named Barry's, and that was the Big Dipper because it was like a flipping roller-coaster time. But if anyone had said at the start of the season that we would have won a major trophy for the first time in 28 years, the highest league finish since 1981 and we've got to the Europa League play-offs, that is beyond what we ever envisaged.

"Glenavon have been there and done that, but on Friday night we're just going to give it our best shot, one more lash and another pop at it.

"I told the players I wanted to win and get to another final but the reason is the financial reward because that makes our job that wee bit easier, that means there are less hard decisions to make.

"Getting to the final helps us massively because we're playing for the money on Friday night. We're treating it more like a league game, we've just got to win a game of football, the reality is we're playing for a lot of money to get into Europe.

"It's not like the Irish Cup final or League Cup final, we've got to go and do a job and win a game of football.

"Glenavon will be a tough game, they will go in favourites, but that's alright."

The Braidmen will hope to have top scorer Cathair Friel back after a virus left the new father on a drip at the start of the week, and the Sky Blues will hope that mum, baby Kai and daddy will all be in fine fettle come Friday.

Conor McCloskey will also return to the panel following his one-match suspension, with the battle for the Euro bullion getting under way at 7.45pm.

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