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David Jeffrey has no complaints over 'fabulous' Irish League fixture list after recent shutdown

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Pressure on: Paul McElroy holds off Jeff Hughes

Pressure on: Paul McElroy holds off Jeff Hughes

Pressure on: Paul McElroy holds off Jeff Hughes

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey remains unequivocal when asked about his side's relentless fixture list: Bring it on!

The Braidmen travel to the Oval to take on an in-form Glentoran side tomorrow night, hot on the heels of Saturday's derby draw when Larne's Ronan Hale cancelled out Albert Watson's first half own goal.

The schedule shows no sign of letting up, but as Jeffrey looks back to a year ago when football was on the verge of being halted for four months, he insists he is just glad to be playing.

"Brilliant, absolutely brilliant," he said when asked about the challenge of two games per week.

"You think back to this time last year when we had to stop because of Covid-19.

"We had to take that on, and thank God - and I say that with all reverence - we seem to be winning that battle.

"We're back playing and playing safely. Players are being tested, thankfully the government have supported sport in general and football in particular with the money.

"Every three days? It's not even a price to pay. It's absolutely fabulous."

The heavy fixture list has taken its toll on United, as Jeffrey continues to be without a number of key players.

Despite this, the United boss is choosing to see the positives.

"We have had the same 18 players for the last number of weeks," he said. "At no point have we made a big deal about the unavailability of players or injuries or anything of that sort. You've got to put it in the context of being able to play. We're classed as Elite Sportspeople and we're very thankful we're able to play.

"We're getting the chance to play all of the time and with that there will be bumps and bruises."

Larne midfielder John Herron, meanwhile, was disappointed to only come away from the Showgrounds with a point, even though it ended their three- match losing sequence.

"I felt we dominated the match, maybe bar a 15 or 20 minute-spell before half-time but credit to Ballymena, they did well," Herron said.

"We threw everything at them but they defended well and it was a draw in the end.

"It's frustrating for us because we want to kickstart our season again and we wanted a win to do that.

"Where we want to be as a club, a draw is disappointing, we have to come to places like Ballymena and put pressure on ourselves to get three points.

"In saying that, when you look at the weekend's results they weren't the worst for us so it's a point gained at the end of the day.

"We have to keep working hard and look to build on this now. The manager puts a lot of work into us and we have to translate that on the pitch.

"Our whole philosophy is to get the ball down and play and we saw that at times on Saturday.

"We got caught at times trying to play the old Irish League way of going long and playing off long balls, but we showed character and we have to keep doing that."

Ballymena United: Williamson, Redman, Winchester, McElroy, McCartan, McGrory, Hume, Keeley, Kelly, Wylie (Knowles 88 mins), McCready (Waide 81 mins)

Unused subs: Glendinning, Kane, Ervin, Graham, Beattie

Larne: Devlin, Watson, Robinson, Herron, Randall (Lynch 58 mins), McDaid (Mottley-Henry 89 mins), A Mitchell, Cosgrove, Hughes, Jarvis, McMurray (Hale 56 mins)

Unused subs: C Mitchell, Kelly, McKendry, Wade Slater

Referee: Evan Boyce

Man of the match: Jude Winchester

Match rating: 7/10.

Belfast Telegraph


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