Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey hopeful Ballymena United's battling win can provide a meaningful token to Wrightbus workers

David Jeffrey
David Jeffrey
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

If ever there was a fitting footballing metaphor, it was on Saturday afternoon at Mourneview Park.

It has been a desperately difficult week for the town after the collapse of Wrightbus and the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Workers of the firm had been granted free access to Ballymena United's home game against Cliftonville and boss David Jeffrey was hopeful his side's battling performance would provide a small token of comfort.

United were played off the park for the opening 25 minutes, Rory Donnelly putting the Reds 1-0 ahead in what looked at that stage like it could be a mauling.

But, from their own seemingly hopeless position, United rallied to come back and win 2-1 thanks to an equaliser from Andy McGrory and an own-goal by the unfortunate Conor McDermott.

"We know it's a small token but it's very much about trying to communicate that we're standing with them, beside them and they're very much in our thoughts and prayers," said Jeffrey of the club's decision to grant the Wrightbus workers free entry to the Showgrounds.

"It's as simple as that.

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"I said to the players that this was a week that was so difficult for so many folk, at least having gone out and fought in the manner that they did right to the end will be some comfort to the folk from Wrightbus.

"On a day like today when football is an insignificance considering the situation people find themselves in, for an hour and a half, we went out and gave our all. I thanked the players because that will be an encouragement. Just a token, but an encouragement.

"We very much see Ballymena not as a standalone club but part of the town, part of the community. We've said we want to build a club hopefully that the town can be proud of. We've started well but we'd like to do better again."

United are up to fifth in the league table, eight points off the top but with a game in hand on Crusaders.

So what exactly did Jeffrey say to inspire the second half revival?

"We had a conversation," smiled Jeffrey. "We knew we could do better. There was nothing wrong with the attitude, the work-rate but we thought we could improve the quality of play and the players agreed with that. Ross Glendinning (goalkeeper who saved a last gasp shot from Joe Gormley) who was absolutely immense but I've also got to mention Declan Carville.

"He came to us when we wanted to add a bit of steel to the middle of the park but without Cathfair Friel, Adam Lecky and Adam Burns, we were running short of frontmen. I remember only day Declan played up front for Newry here and he was immense. I asked could he provide a performance like that and he was pehnomenal.

"Then you've got the mercurial Andy McGrory. They epitomise everything that was good about the performance. I'm very proud of them. "

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