Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine boss Kearney and Ballymena United manager Jeffrey are braced for more drama

By Stephen Alexander

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey and his Coleraine counterpart Oran Kearney are in agreement about one thing as the race for European qualification hots up in the Danske Bank Premiership.

After watching their sides thrash out a 1-1 draw at the Warden Street Showgrounds, both managers are certain there will be plenty more twists and turns between now and the end of the season - especially with the league split after this weekend.

Johnny McMurray's late header for Ballymena cancelled out Eoin Bradley's opener for the Bannsiders - after his penalty had initially been saved - with a point apiece keeping both sides well in contention in a three-cornered battle for third spot, along with Cliftonville.

"I was satisfied with a point and more than pleased with the performance," said Sky Blues supremo Jeffrey. "We had to get something. As much as we wanted the win, we needed a point.

"In the second half we really wanted it and needed it and that was great and we've now got to harness that and concentrate from now until the end of the season."

United face a crunch trip to Solitude this Saturday and Jeffrey said: "We have Cliftonville to play twice and another game against Coleraine as well as all the other teams in the top six - they're all big games.

"There will be twists and turns all over the place. It will be very much about who can do it on the day."

That view was shared by Kearney, who saw his side stretch their unbeaten run to 13 games since losing at the same venue on Boxing Day.

"I would have happily picked Ballymena's pockets and moved on but I think a draw was fair," he said. "We didn't make life easy for ourselves in the second half - I've seen us play smarter at 1-0 up."

The Bannsiders welcome champions Crusaders to the Showgrounds this Saturday and Kearney said: "Our final three games before the split were against top six sides and then the final five are the same. It's tough, but brilliant.

"I keep trying to get it across to the players that there shouldn't be an ounce of edginess or nerves - they should be absolutely joyous."

• Tim Mouncey has left Portadown and announced his retirement from football.

The former Lisburn Distillery midfielder made 243 appearances for the Ports and also helped Linfield win the inaugural Setanta Cup in 2005.

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