Glenn Ferguson is confident that Ballymena United can bounce back from their WASP Solutions League Cup final heartache to finish the season strongly.
The Sky Blues recovered from conceding a goal inside the opening minute and being two goals behind at the break to level the scores before succumbing to Martin Donnelly’s late winner for Cliftonville.
“We got off to the worst possible start that we could have imagined,” admitted Ferguson.
“We made it difficult for ourselves but against Cliftonville in the past we have just gave in but I have to give the players credit.
“I had a word with them at half-time and told them that last week at Portadown we came from two goals down three times and got something out of the game.
“The introduction of David Cushley made a difference but it was even earlier than we had hoped.
“We had hoped to be in the game at the stage where their defence was starting to tire and we had hoped to bring him on and make an impact. He came on 15 minutes earlier than planned but he still made that impact.
“He is nowhere near ready to be starting and playing 90 minutes but he certainly changed the game.
“We know he’s got that in his locker. One of the boys joked with him in the dressing room and said ‘not a bad goal with your bad foot’. He said ‘I haven’t got a bad foot’.
“That’s the confidence of the lad and once he hits it, it stays hit - I think Peter Cherrie just got it on the way back out.
“Cush did exactly what we wanted him to do but unfortunately we couldn’t build on that and take it to the next level.
“When you’re playing a team like Cliftonville and you’re 2-0 down and you get back in the game, we were well on top but it’s then that key decisions change games.
“I’m not gurning or trying to make excuses. I saw a clear photo from a photographer of a Cliftonville player handling the ball in the box, in fact he had both hands around it.
“Why a penalty wasn’t given I don’t know and I’m led to believe that Tony Kane’s corner was over the line as well.
“It’s a difficult decision to make but we’ve now got six officials and one of them was on that line and he wasn’t able to make that decision.
“If he’s able to catch it on a camera, then surely one of the three officials who are looking in that direction is bound to be able to see it?
“The mistakes we made defensively, for the first goal in particular, were costly again.
“Tony (Kane) is gutted with the defensive header that he should have put out for a corner for the third goal.
“But I’m proud of them for not caving in and making a game of it in the second half,” Ferguson added.