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Ballymena’s trusted central defensive pairing is a key foundation for David Jeffrey

Danske Bank Premiership

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David Jeffrey

David Jeffrey

©INPHO/Declan Roughan

David Jeffrey

David Jeffrey’s eyes light up when you get on to one of his favourite subjects — central defenders.

The Ballymena United manager was one of the best exponents of the position during his own playing career, or rather, was one half of that team within a team.

The consistency of having a settled pair at the heart of a defence is something Jeffrey sets his stall by and has seen that hampered by illness, injury and suspension this season.

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Leroy Millar

Leroy Millar

©INPHO/Evan Logan

Leroy Millar

The men in possession of those spots ahead of tonight’s trip to Warrenpoint are Dougie Wilson and Conor Keeley and on Saturday past they put on a flawless display to keep Crusaders at bay.

“We’ve been stop-start a number of times,” Jeffrey admitted.

“Dougie at the start of the season had Covid and then he got sent off at Warrenpoint, then Conor in the Glentoran game got a crack on the head and it’s been a bit tipsy-turvy.

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“It’s vital to get that two. You pick the players who are playing best at any time but I remember for a long time playing with Lindsay McKeown at Linfield and the battle I had was with George Gibson and then in latter years with Jeff Spiers and John McConnell.

“In my time at Linfield, the biggest partnership was Noel Bailie and William Murphy and then you had Kris Lindsay challenging, Albert Watson came in for a period, you have various other boys.

“But if you get those two right, it makes a massive difference and I thought they were super solid. No-nonsense defending, winning headers and winning tackles and actually passing the ball out, not just welting it clear. I thought their football was first class, I was never blessed with the ability of those boys.”

That ability will be tested again tonight, Town defeating the Sky Blues at Milltown at the start of the season, and Jeffrey knows that Barry Gray’s side will be a tricky mission.

“On our day if we have our best players and playing at their best then we can give anybody a game,” Jeffrey added.

“No-one is carried away, Warrenpoint are coming off the back of a great result at Carrick and we know the area we’re fighting in.

“I’ve said to the players, tremendous but let’s be disciplined and prepare well over the weekend because going down to Warrenpoint on a Tuesday evening after work, that’s a tough ask.”

Captain Leroy Millar, who suffered injury on Saturday, will hope to be back.

“It was a bang on his knee, which I am relieved about, it’s not a twist or a strain, so it’ll just be about how that pain subsides,” added Jeffrey.


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