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'It doesn't add up': David Jeffrey questions lengthy injury time that led to County Antrim Shield heartache

 

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Mixed emotions: David Jeffrey was gutted, but proud of players

Mixed emotions: David Jeffrey was gutted, but proud of players

Mixed emotions: David Jeffrey was gutted, but proud of players

David Jeffrey believes this season has been one of the most challenging of his long and legendary managerial career.

Opening up about his devastation after the agonising Toals County Antrim Shield final defeat to Cliftonville, the Ballymena United boss revealed how he has suffered sleepless nights since and spoke about his disbelief that SEVEN minutes of injury time were added in Tuesday's Windsor Park decider.

Thomas Maguire equalised in the 96th minute and in the 97th fellow Reds substitute Ryan Curran netted a dramatic winner.

It was a desperate way to lose for Jeffrey and the Sky Blues, who had a host of impressive performers from defender Jonny Addis to goalscorer Leroy Millar.

"It was the cruellest night of my football career. I was absolutely devastated for the players and the club,'' said former Linfield boss Jeffrey, ahead of his side's trip to Crusaders today.

Speaking about the decision to have seven minutes of injury time, Jeffrey added: "My thoughts were mirrored by my reaction at the time. I was in total disbelief. Latterly we were told about the length of time that was taken for head injuries to two players but when we timed it back it doesn't add up.

"On the night I thought referee Raymond Crangle handled the game really well but for the life of me I still can't calculate how we ended up with seven minutes of injury time.

"It made the final defeat even tougher to take because when that number went up on the board suddenly Cliftonville were rejuvenated and our own players, who had put in one heck of a shift, were suddenly thinking, 'Goodness me, another seven minutes'. It was a very obvious lift, jolt and encouragement for Cliftonville. Up until then we were really solid.''

Jeffrey says he felt great pride in the performance of his team, which has been ravaged by injuries all season.

"I was hugely proud of the boys at the time and been increasingly proud over the last few days,'' stated Jeffrey, who has won 32 trophies as a manager.

"This has been one of the most challenging seasons, if not the most challenging that (assistant) Bryan (McLaughlin) and I have had with player availability, be that with injuries or suspensions. It has been a tough, tough year. If we didn't have bad luck, we would have no luck.

"Anyone who says managing Ballymena is not the same pressure as being at Linfield, they haven't a clue. This week alone you could count the number of hours I have slept on one hand before and after the final and that's simply because of the pressure Bryan and I put on ourselves to win and succeed and make Ballymena successful.

"The comfort after Tuesday was that the players were brilliant, gave everything we asked of them and we were so unfortunate not to win.''

Jeffrey, who last season guided Ballymena to second place in the league, appreciates that this afternoon's clash at title-chasing Crusaders will be a tough one.

The Crues have had five consecutive wins without conceding - something they have achieved only twice before, the last of which was in the title-winning season of 1994-95 when current boss Stephen Baxter was striker.

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