Ballymena Utd 0 Coleraine 2
David Jeffrey has vowed to keep on fighting to turn around the fortunes of struggling Ballymena United.
Saturday's defeat by derby foes Coleraine leaves the Sky Blues without a league win in 10 games and languishing perilously close to the drop zone in 10th position.
To compound Jeffrey's misery, he was sent off by referee Steven Gregg at Warden Street, where the match was settled by Stephen Lowry's early penalty and Aaron Canning's second-half header.
Jeffrey, booked by the Ballyclare official for querying the penalty decision, was ordered off in the second period when he was deemed to encroach on the field of play, something he vehemently denied afterwards.
United, desperately low in confidence, had a fair share of the play but, apart from a Joe McCready effort, rarely threatened, something that needs to change with seven league games and an Irish Cup semi-final against the Bannsiders to come later in the month.
"You either lie down or you can stand up and fight and I've never walked away from a fight and I'm certainly not going to start now," vowed Jeffrey, who was taking charge of his 1150th game as a manager.
"The fact that we can't get a win is doing our heads in. Somebody put the (Linfield) clean sweep team (online) and put the record up and you think 'remember those times' and then we got Team of the Borough (at the Mid & East Antrim sports awards) last week and they put the stats up from last year and sometimes you have to realise that things are going to go against you.
"You find out more about yourself and people around you when things aren't going your way.
"My mindset is I am here to serve and I am here as long as the club want me to be here, that's the long and short of it. That doesn't say we're not down, that we're not gutted.
"What we've done over this past number of years has been phenomenal, some great things achieved and a lot of firsts. It's a different landscape now, but we're here as long as the club want us to be.
"People on Saturday, I have to say, were very supportive because they can see I am right down on my boots."
For Lowry and the Bannsiders, they are riding the crest of a wave and keeping right on the coat-tails of leaders Linfield.
"It's getting to that stage now where you are looking at other results," he said.
"Sometimes you'd say you'd rather be in front by four points but sometimes it's nice to be chasing as well because you know you have to win.
"We have to keep putting the pressure on them. We've got good momentum, we're a hungry team who wants to win a trophy. We're in a good place and hopefully we can keep the winning run going. We're hoping other teams can do us a favour.
"The last time I was challenging for a league title, the games weren't as big as this. Every team in the top six is a really top side who can beat anyone on their day, so it's going to be tough.
"If you win all five of those games then you deserve to be champions, but we are relishing the fact that we have put ourselves in this position."
BALLYMENA UTD: Ross Glendinning, T Kane, McCullough, Addis, Whiteside, Reece Glendinning (Lecky, 69 mins), Kelly (K Kane, 81 mins), Winchester, Friel, Millar, McCready (Knowles, 81 mins). Unused subs: Williamson, Burns, Balmer, Owens.
Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Traynor, Mullan, Canning, Jarvis (O'Donnell, 83 mins), Nixon, Lowry, McLaughlin (Allen, 79 mins), Bradley (Doherty, 67 mins), Carson.Unused subs: Gallagher, Douglas, McConaghie, Fitzpatrick.
Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)
Man of the match: Aaron Canning
Match rating: 6/10.