Training schedule pays off for Sky Blues, says Jeffrey
Ballymena United 2-0 Coleraine
David Jeffrey believes his Ballymena United side's Boxing Day win over Coleraine was a fitting reward for his players' diligence over the festive period.
First half goals from Cathair Friel and Tony Kane saw the Sky Blues strengthen their top four place in the Danske Bank Premiership by following up the League Cup semi-final win over their rivals earlier this month.
"The players have been disciplined - we had them in on Christmas Eve training," said Jeffrey. "Different people did different times and that sacrifice and discipline has been rewarded with this result.
"Probably on the day, the only difference between the sides was that we were a little bit more incisive and clinical in our finishing. But Ross Glendinning made a fantastic save at the start of the second half which was pivotal - if that had gone in then Coleraine had the chance to get back into the game.
"It's instances like that in games which change games. The most telling thing for me is that we've 39 points at this stage of the season. We totalled 40 points in the whole of last season.
"That figure is in sight now so can we go on and kick on from there? We can't get carried away with ourselves."
United's win came via goals from their leading goalscorers.
First, Kane provided a pinpoint cross for Friel to head home his 17th goal of the campaign in the opening 10 minutes.
Then Kane showed he is equally as adept from open play as he is from set-pieces as he curled home a beauty from 25 yards after Friel's shot had come off the base of the post seconds earlier.
How Coleraine boss Oran Kearney must have wished his side had been as sharp in front of goal after they squandered some good chances to prevent a fifth defeat in their last six games in all competitions.
Striker Jamie McGonigle was the main culprit with his late miss in a one-on-one with Glendinning indicative of the Bannsiders' lack of cutting edge.
"Jamie took all the plaudits in a Boxing Day 'derby' at our place a couple of years ago when he scored both goals and he could have filled his boots out there," said Kearney.
"But I back Jamie to the hilt. It was just one of those days where it just wouldn't drop for him and he'll have to take this one on the chin.
"Overall if we could finish we would definitely have taken something from the game.
"I thought we created a pile of chances to do damage and take something from the game but we were wasteful.
"If we had scored any one of those chances with 10 or 15 minutes left it would have been a big change in the game.
"All parts of our play were really, really good bar the end product which is something we need to address.
"It's very hard to be negative because we got all the endeavour, work-rate and guts that we wanted - they could easily have downed tools with 20 minutes left but they didn't - we kept going. It was a case of you can take a horse to water - we just need the horse to take a drink now!"