Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena have moved on from Cup final defeat and ready to punch above our weight again: Jeffrey

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey
Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey believes the painful League Cup final loss to Linfield will be a valuable learning experience for Ballymena United.

The Sky Blues were left stunned by Andy Waterworth's first-half winner at Windsor Park and Jeffrey admitted afterwards it was a bitter pill to swallow.

But this game can offer you a swift opportunity to get back to business and, ironically, the Braidmen return to the international venue for a top-of-the-table clash against Linfield.

The Blues sit six points ahead of their nearest challengers, who have played one fewer game.

Although the Cup final defeat was a heartbreaking experience for the players and management, Jeffrey's distinguished career has taught him to keep the highs and lows in perspective.

"It was a challenging weekend, there's no doubt about that but you have to leave it behind you and move on," said the former Linfield boss.

"Bryan (McLoughlin) and I have been blessed with quite a bit of success and we try and keep the right balance. Obviously you are pleased when you succeed but I don't believe we have gone overboard on any occasion.

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"By the same token, we don't believe in getting disproportionally down when you are beaten. To me it's about balance and focus. You enjoy those times when you win and also appreciate the times when you are beaten as everything is put into perspective.

"We treat each game on its own merits and the Cup final is gone. We played fabulously well and gave a good account of ourselves but it wasn't enough to win the trophy. With that comes a lot of learning and we will add that to the journey on which we are on."

The bigger picture for United is they can take great encouragement from their performances against the league leaders this campaign and tomorrow's clash should be another close affair.

"It's a simple fact that we are punching well above our weight when it comes to resources and fanbase among other things," added Jeffrey. "We met our first target, which was to secure a third top-six finish, and we've done that.

"We'd like to qualify for Europe and that's our focus. There's still a lot of points to play for."

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