Davis Jeffrey urges Sky Blues to find their cutting edge
Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey will take on Cliftonville at the Ballymena Showgrounds tomorrow looking for a creative spark that was missing from his team in last weekend's defeat at Glenavon.
The Sky Blues dropped to seventh in the league table after losing 3-1 to the Lurgan Blues. Jeffrey's side opened the scoring with a brilliantly crafted goal from Cathair Friel but rarely troubled the Mourneview Park men after that.
It didn't help that they were missing key performers including James Knowles and Adam Lecky. Not one for excuses, Jeffrey will want to find the consistency that saw United challenge Linfield for the title last season.
So far Ballymena have won three, drawn two and lost two of their seven league games.
"Against Glenavon what was missing was in the final third, the final pass, the final cross and the final shot. It was that bit of creativity that you need to win games," explained Jeffrey (right).
"There was no doubt about the work-rate or effort, commitment and attitude, and it's worth pointing out that, with Europe, we have been in since the first week in June.
"I thought we played really well in the first half at Mourneview and our goal was exceptional.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
"Credit to Glenavon, they came back into it with a fantastic goal of their own.
"In the second half we had quite a bit of possession but Jonathan Tuffey didn't have a lot to do, to be fair, and we'll be looking to change that against Cliftonville.
"The journey that (assistant manager) Bryan McLoughlin and I have been on with Ballymena has been absolutely fabulous.
"Last season was an amazing year and we have started the season well with what we have done in Europe, but at this moment in time player unavailability hasn't helped. We are a little bit off the mark in terms of performance levels from last season but we are sticking in there rightly.
"What was most pleasing for me was how our supporters applauded us after the Glenavon game. There is an understanding there, which is good to see."
Third-placed Cliftonville enter the game five points ahead of Ballymena and just three behind table topping Crusaders. Much is made of Cliftonville's firepower but Reds boss Paddy McLaughlin also loves a tight defence and will seek a fourth clean sheet in succession tomorrow.
Jeffrey admits that what Cliftonville achieved under the late, great Tommy Breslin, winning back-to-back titles, offers hope to Ballymena.
"Cliftonville have had a bright start this season. Paddy has built on the work he started last year," says the former Linfield boss.
"They are one of the teams Ballymena want to emulate when you think where Cliftonville were many years ago, and then they won leagues under Thomas Breslin, a good man.
"That's where we want to get to. They then had a challenging time and are now bouncing back, so we know it will be a tough game for us on Saturday."