LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINAL: Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey expects close game against Cliftonville

Ballymena boss David Jeffrey
Ballymena boss David Jeffrey

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey expects a tight affair when his side face Cliftonville in the semi-final of the Bet McLean League Cup at the Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

Many would expect a goal-fest with the fire power that is on display when the two meet after the game had been postponed three times because of severe weather.

United have the free scoring Johnny McMurray, Cathair Friel, Kevin Braniff and Matthew Shelvin to call upon while the Reds have the likes of Joe Gormley, Rory Donnelly, Jay Donnelly and Stephen Garrett in their ranks.

It looks as if goals could be aplenty but former Linfield boss Jeffrey is not so sure.

“There is goals in both sides but the games to date have been very tight. We beat Cliftonville 1-0 down here and they beat us 1-0 up at their place.

“And it was one each up at their place when the game had to be abandoned.

“But they have fire power in their ranks and they are coming off the back of a great win against Crusaders in the Irish Cup when everyone thought it would have been a tight game - but no-one would have thought it would be a 4-1 score line.

“They are up and flying and full of confidence and we ourselves showed great character against Ballinamallard to come back from 2-0 down.

“ And I think it would be fair to say that we created enough chances to us progressing in the Irish Cup sooner than the penalty shoot-out.

“But we deserved the victory and there are goals there but games with them have been very tight and I expect the same again.”

Jeffrey’s men are the holders of the League Cup after beating Carrick Rangers 2-0 in last year’s final through goals from Allan Jenkins and Conor McCloskey.

And the Sky Blues boss says they are determined to keep their paws on the trophy.

“It was first major trophy the club had won in a long time and we were very proud champions and we have worked desperately hard to get ourselves this far.

“And make no mistake - and this is no psychological warfare in any shape or form - Cliftonville are favourites.

“But can we take some inspiration from Dungannon beating Crusaders in the other semi-final.

“Can we go and do that? That is the question that has to be asked.”

And United skipper Jim Ervin is looking forward to the tie finally getting underway.

“It’s a massive game and Cliftonville are a very good side. They are up for this as well and it is a huge game for both sides and the players will give it their all on Saturday.

“And it would be fantastic if we could retain the trophy. But we still have work to do and it will not be an easy game.

“Both sides have fire power and it should be a cracking semi-final.”

Yes, Ervin agrees both sides have impressive strikers on display but the former Linfield defender says he has been impressed with the emergence of 17 year old defender Kofi Balmer.

“Kofi has been very good since he has come and the best thing about him is he doesn’t let anything go to his head - not like many young players coming through.

“He is keen to learn and he listens to the advice of the more experienced players which is also refreshing.

“And he has been outstanding since he came in to the side.

“And it’s also good to see McMurray back. He’s important in what he brings to the team. He is brimming with confidence and hopefully he scores a few on Saturday.”