Irish Premiership: David Jeffrey calls on Ballymena to take final step

ballymena v Glenavon
Either Ballymena United or Glenavon will finish second in the league

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey has called for one final push from his players as they seek to secure second place in the Irish Premiership at the Showgrounds on Tuesday.

The Sky Blues will earn automatic Europa League qualification if they can avoid defeat by Glenavon.

"I have said to the players to go out and see if we can finish this race," said Jeffrey.

"We have got to persevere, to keep going and going."

With a five point advantage over third-placed Glenavon, Ballymena are on the cusp of claiming their first top two finish since 1980.

"The job is not done by a long stretch but to be in the position that we are in is most pleasing," Jeffrey said.

"We have been working desperately hard since June with a lot of new players coming into the club."

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballymena UnitedvGlenavon
ColerainevCrusaders
LinfieldvCliftonville
GlentoranvWarrenpoint Town
ArdsvDungannon Swifts
InstitutevNewry City

Glenavon's impressive 4-0 win over newly crowned champions Linfield on Saturday means that the Lurgan Blues are the only side still capable of catching Ballymena.

Gary Hamilton's side have recovered from a mid-season slump to win four of their last five games and leapfrog Irish Cup finalists Crusaders in the league standings.

"They are an excellent side," Jeffrey acknowledged.

"If you think of the journey that they have been on, with the number of players who have moved on from the club and gone across the water, (it is impressive) how consistently Glenavon have responded."

Ards Newry
Ards and Newry City have been cut adrift from the rest of the teams at the bottom of the league

Battle at the bottom heading for final day drama

The fight to avoid automatic relegation took another twist last weekend with Newry City returning to the foot of the table after their defeat by Glentoran was followed by Ards' win at Institute.

Warren Feeney's men are above Newry only on goal difference, meaning the relegation battle is likely to go down to the very last day of the season on Saturday.

On Tuesday Ards host Dungannon Swifts while Newry travel to Institute.

"It is going to go to the wire, so we have just got to concentrate on what we're doing. We just have to worry about ourselves," said Feeney.

Ards' timely victory was their first in five matches, while Newry's tepid display on Friday night frustrated boss Daren Mullen who had seen his side climb up to 11th with wins in their previous two games.

"I shouldn't have to pick the players up. It is down to them, they know the importance of the games ahead," he said.

"There is only so much That I can do as manager. The players are going to have to stand up, take responsibility and be counted."