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Full Time

McMurray motivated to fire Sky Blues to a timely surge up the table

 

By Alex Mills

Ballymena United striker Johnny McMurray believes his team can take a giant leap to claiming top six place by pocketing three points in tonight's showdown with Glentoran at The Oval.

David Jeffrey's Sky Blues hauled themselves back in contention of joining the big guns for the final five outings of the league campaign, defying the odds by beating Cliftonville on Tuesday, but they now face two make-or-break confrontations against Ronnie McFall's much-improved Glens, before rolling out the welcome mat for basement side Ballinamallard United on Monday.

It's still a tall order for United, who have closed the gap on Glentoran in the Danske Bank Premiership table to four points. They looked to have blown their chances following quick-fire defeats to Coleraine and Warrenpoint Town.

But McMurray insists the team can take a great deal of confidence from their performance at Solitude - and will be looking for a similar outcome in east Belfast.

"Morale was low in the camp after losing three games on the trot, one a disappointing result in the Irish Cup against Larne," said the 23-year-old.

"Our confidence was shot to pieces. We knew the Cliftonville match was a must-win affair, we knew our season rested on that result. It's the same again at The Oval. We can't afford any more slip ups. This is now our biggest game of the season.

"We set out our goals at the start of the campaign and reaching the top six was one of them. The other was to win a trophy. We've been beaten in two finals, but the top six is still achievable.

"Yes, we still have a lot of work to do, but it's in our hands. We know we have to win two football games to get there."

Having tasted European football earlier this season, McMurray stressed it's vital the Sky Blues have a chance to get back there.

"It's massive in terms of the financial aspect," he added.

"Every player relishes playing in Europe. We'll need to be disciplined at The Oval, just like we were against the Reds. We worked hard all over the pitch and defended well.

"We probably rode our luck on occasions, but every team needs that. Glentoran have been flying since Ronnie McFall took over - I don't know what it is, there must be something in the water.

"He has been about the league for a long time and appears to have the team better organised.

"There is no doubt it gives this game a bit of an extra buzz. Glentoran know they are close to clinching their top six place, but we can still have a big say, we have our own agenda."

United approach the game buoyed by the fact that manager David Jeffrey has been given a two-year extension to his existing deal that will keep him at the Showgrounds until April 2021.

Even though McFall moved into the Glentoran hot-seat on a temporary basis, he also has also played in influential part in new contracts been handed out to Ross Redman, Stephen Gordon and Willie Garrett.

"I've been pleased to work with the club and make recommendations on the new contracts," said McFall. "These lads all wanted to stay and they are at a good age. They are also good, established Irish Premiership players who have the experience of winning things and will get better over the course of next season."

Glentoran vs Ballymena Utd

Danske Bank Premiership

The Oval, Tonight, 7.45pm

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