We paid ultimate price for host of silly errors, says Jeffrey
Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey admitted his side handed gifts to Crusaders in a one-sided Toals County Antrim Shield decider.
The Sky Blues faced a mountain to climb at the break when trailing 3-0 and although they showed more fight in the second half, there was no sensational comeback.
Crusaders carried the greater attacking threat while United struggled to click into gear from the early exchanges.
First-half goals from Howard Beverland, skipper Jordan Owens and Declan Caddell stunned United and even though Jonny McMurray and substitute Cathair Friel netted in the second period, Paul Heatley's strike to make it 4-1 in the 69th minute ensured there was no way back for the Sky Blues.
Jeffrey admitted his side were ruthlessly punished by a powerful Crues team.
"Crusaders have strengthened a lot over the years and they have a strong squad," said Jeffrey, who was denied his 33rd trophy as a manager.
"The analysis is very simple. I felt if we wanted to take something from the game we had to be at our very, very best. When your opposition are strong you must make sure you don't make mistakes. You will be punished.
"We made three mistakes and were punished, they had four shots and scored three goals. All three were preventable."
United were reeling at 3-0 down but Jeffrey praised his troops for displaying courage and making a fight of the game.
"To our credit we steadied ourselves and Kevin Braniff had a good chance," Jeffrey added.
"There was another opportunity, Jonny had to knock the ball into Kevin and that might have given us a second goal. We didn't get one back and at half-time we said we needed to reverse things by not making mistakes and taking chances.
"We showed resilience and courage, got one back and could have scored a second through Kevin but another mistake was punished.
"We didn't give up but you have to take your chances and capitalise when you're in the ascendancy. We were punished by a very clinical and talented team.
"The team could have crumbled but they didn't do that, they fought back and that shows courage. A number of our supporters stayed and they wouldn't do that if the team wasn't making an effort. In pure footballing terms a very good side exploited our mistakes and we weren't ruthless enough.
"The greatest lesson wasn't what went on during the game. You can take a step back and say well done Crusaders, they're a good side. The lesson is feeling the pain of defeat."