Jeffrey vows United will continue to battle for every point
Ballymena Utd 0 Glentoran 2
Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey is on the ropes but has come out fighting after Saturday's dismal display against Glentoran.
The Glens gave their Big Two foes, Linfield, a massive lift in the race for the Gibson Cup with a dominant display at Warden Street, where United failed to live up to the sparking show they put on seven days earlier at Coleraine.
An early goal from livewire Paul O'Neill, providing the flourish to Curtis Allen's fine run and cross, gave them an early lead and, after much dillying and dallying at the back, Robbie McDaid was set free by John Herron to settle things with an hour gone.
Even the sending off of young James McCarthy for a gruesome tackle on Andy McGrory - the only foot he put wrong all day - mattered little for a United side that only really fashioned one chance worthy of the name in the full 90 minutes.
"Nobody played to their potential. When you think of the heights they were hitting last week away to Coleraine, today was just a horrible day and a horrible time to drop points," admitted Jeffrey.
"But listen, there are eight games to go and we'll be fighting for every single point from here until the end of the season."
They are now nine behind Linfield and their game in hand, weather and joke of a pitch permitting, comes tomorrow against Institute but Jeffrey insists that their targets remain the same.
"Expectations are lovely and they are right and they are proper but it's how you manage them. Feet have always been firmly plonked on the ground. That's the first time we've been beaten at home this season and it's the first time we've been beaten by a side not in the top six.
"They really isn't any explanation other than we didn't perform. This time last year, we were having to win against Cliftonville away, Glentoran away and Ballinamallard at home to get into the top six - (this year) we reached the top six some time ago.
"Nothing has changed in terms of what we want to do and that is get top six and crack Europe, that's what we want. This has been a bitter disappointment but not on one occasion have I got carried away.
"Today is a knock, particularly with Crusaders winning and Linfield winning, but we've got to dust ourselves down and respond on Tuesday, it's as simple as that."
As for the Glens, their performance was all the more remarkable given how many players they were missing through injury and suspension, but they did manager Gary Smyth proud.
"That was the first time Marcus Kane started as a centre-half and we had young James McCarthy, who unfortunately was sent off, making only his second start at left back and he was excellent," he said.
"It was maybe Paul (O'Neill's) first or second start and what a goal he scored. You see him in training and he's an absolute nuisance, he never stops, so we knew he would give us something.
"I thought we were quite comfortable, Ballymena put us under a wee bit of pressure in the second-half but, bar a chance in the first couple of minutes when the left-back went through, that was it really.
"We didn't let Ballymena settle and I think our boys need to take some credit because Ballymena are up there for a reason. It's no fluke at this stage of the season if you're sitting second or top, you're there because you earned it.
"We started off very brightly and through the first-half we were quick into the tackle and I thought our quality from wide areas was very good.
"It was a wee bit like PSG against Man United. Man United had six or seven players out and kids that had never started but with the right attitude and workmanlike performance you have a chance against any team."
• Glentoran's Premiership fixture with Cliftonville at Solitude next Saturday has been postponed due to international call-ups.
BALLYMENA: Ross Glendinning, Ervin, Quigley, Watson, Whiteside (McGinty, 76 mins), Balmer (Mayse, 66 mins), McGrory, Millar, Lecky, McMurray, McCullough (T Kane, 67 mins). Unused subs: Williamson, Addis, Burns, Shevlin.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Kerr, McCarthy, Peers, M Kane, C Gallagher, Gwiazda, Herron, Allen, McDaid, O'Neill (Gordon, 77 mins). Unused subs: McMahon, Henderson, S Gallagher, Smith, McLaughlin, Wallace.
Referee: Shane Andrews (Comber)
Man of the match: Marcus Kane
Match rating: 6/10