IRISH CUP: Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey wary of Cliftonville threat

Linfield's David Jeffrey
Linfield's David Jeffrey

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey knows that it will take gigantic defensive effort to see off Cliftonville in the Irish Cup at the Showgrounds on Saturday.

The Sky Blues have been scoring goals for fun this season - with the likes of Cathair Friel and Johnny McMurray running riot up-front - but alas they have also been conceding goals for fun as well.

Jeffrey and the United faithful were jumping up and down after Boxing Day’s 2-0 win against arch rivals Coleraine.

But that victory has been followed up by a 4-2 defeat to Ards and a 4-3 loss to Glenavon on Tuesday night - which has brought everyone at the Showgrounds crashing back to earth with a bang.

But those losses have been the story of United’s season as they have scored 51 goals so far but have conceded the same amount through some kamikaze defending.

League leaders Crusaders and second placed Linfield are the only two teams that have scored more than United this season - but Ballymena share bottom spot in the league for goals conceded with Carrick Rangers - who lie 11th in the league standings.

There lies the problem and former Linfield boss Jeffrey says beating Cliftonville in tomorrow’s Irish Cup clash will be a huge task for his players.

“It will take a massive performance from us to stand any chance, any sort of a chance.

“I watched Cliftonville against Glenavon last Friday night and they were highly impressive.

“They went goals down against the run of play and showed great character in coming back. They played some superb football and they played tremendously well and they are a joy to watch.

“Their fluidity, their creativity and their penetration is fantastic. And Jason McGuinness is a stalwart for them at the back. It is a tough ask for us. We have beaten them here and they have beaten us at their place.

“We had been on a good wee run. Saturday against Ards was a disappointing performance from us.

“The game against Glenavon was a terrific response from the players and I am disappointed because we lost because of the same familiar tale,” he added.

United beat the Reds 3-2 at the Showgrounds earlier in the season - but Jeffrey believes they have improved since then under the guidance of their manager Gerard Lyttle.

“Gerard has done a fantastic job and he is a great footballing man and a really decent fella and I have a lot of time for the man.

“He has got them, playing brilliantly and it will be a big ask.”

And Jeffrey concedes that something will have to be done so that United stop conceding goals at a frightening rate.

“You tell players and the reality is, you can only tell players so many times and if they don’t get it then you go and get someone who will do the job.

“That is not me threatening. Our goal scoring record is very good but we have to tighten up at the back. The reality is that the players have got to learn.”