Belfast Telegraph

Reaching Shield final can be our launch pad for league success, insists Jeffrey

By Stephen Alexander

David Jeffrey can empathise with the predicament facing his Ballinamallard United counterpart Gavin Dykes - but there will be no sympathy when the two managers come face to face tomorrow.

While the Mallards' season has turned into a struggle against relegation, Ballymena United boss Jeffrey says three points from their meeting at the Showgrounds are equally as important for his side in their quest to break into the top six.

"Most teams encounter a rocky spell at some stage and Ballinamallard have been hampered with injuries," said Jeffrey.

"Sometimes with injuries it means there's no consistency in your team selection and that is difficult all round."

Injuries are also proving a headache for Jeffrey, with three fresh concerns after the midweek County Antrim Shield semi-final success against Ards.

"We suffered the handicap of Emmet Friars having to come off after twisting his knee - he has had absolutely no luck with injuries this season and he won't play on Saturday.

"Conor McCloskey has a hamstring injury and he is a big doubt and Willie Faulkner has a recurrence of a knee injury which has niggled him all season and he'll not play either.

"Gary Thompson is also highly unlikely to play with ligament damage to his ankle but we now have to dust ourselves down and prepare for Saturday.

"It will be a tough match and one that we've got to be fully ready for," said Jeffrey, who hopes his side can carry on the momentum from that midweek Shield win.

"It wasn't some sort of stroll - Ards made us work really hard. We capitalised with goals when we were on top and then defended with our lives when Ards were in the ascendancy, and the players have got their just rewards by reaching another final.

"What pleased me was that there was a real stickability and real resilience and there was just a desire - players were putting themselves in front of the ball from all angles," added the Ballymena boss.

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