Belfast Telegraph

Lee Doherty sets his sights on a European adventure

Glentoran 2-0 Ballymena United

By Ian Callender

Lee Doherty enjoyed many European campaigns with Linfield when the Blues were winning League championships for fun back in the 1980s but he still can't believe that seventh place is now a route onto the continental stage.

Despite a fourth consecutive defeat, Ballymena United remain just two points behind Portadown at the top of the bottom half and the Sky Blues assistant boss is grateful that the new end -of-season play-offs keep his side on course for that unlikely objective.

"I don't know if I agree with it because you play so many matches and could finish 25 points ahead of another team, but I'm not going to turn it down," he said. "It creates interest and it is a lifeline for clubs because if a team can get into Europe their finances go up and once you get the finance you can sign the players you want."

And although United could lose eighth place to Dungannon on Saturday when the teams meet at The Showgrounds, Doherty is still looking upwards.

"If we win games, relegation will look after itself," he said bluntly.

"So we're still looking at seventh and I would back us against anyone in a play-off."

Doherty also knows his team should have got something from The Oval on Saturday but wasteful finishing proved United's undoing and Glentoran helped themselves to three points from a second consecutive game for the first time in almost three months.

It needed a controversial penalty, won and converted by Jonathan Smith, to give the Glens the early advantage but a superb strike by Ciaran Caldwell midway through the first-half ensured the linesman's decision - he persuaded the referee that Jim Ervin had brought down Smith - was not crucial.

Glentoran remain a distant nine points behind fifth place - indeed, they are the same margin ahead of seventh - but Alan Kernaghan is continuing to look upwards.

"Now we've got a bit of momentum," said the Glens boss.

"The work rate and attitude is the only difference from four to five weeks ago. But Coleraine lost and Portadown lost so that has to be our aim, to try to catch Coleraine. There is a real determination now and we have to keep that going."

Kernaghan, however, was frustrated that his team went AWOL for an hour after their second goal, surrendering the initiative to Ballymena and it needed Elliott Morris, on his 601st appearance for the Glens, to make brave stops from Darren Henderson and Jonny Frazer to ensure the win and his first clean sheet in eight games.

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