On-fire Friel salutes DJ as United go up to third

Cathair Friel is now the Premiership's top scorer.  Picture by Peter Morrison/Press Eye
Cathair Friel is now the Premiership's top scorer. Picture by Peter Morrison/Press Eye

There’s a feeling around Ballymena United that their club is on the cusp of a bright new era.

That was evident at full-time on Saturday when players and fans joined in raucous celebrations of their seventh win in their last 10 league games - just one defeat in that stretch.

It’s little wonder they’re now up to third - many thanks to the league’s new top-scorer Cathair Friel.

A summer signing from Limavady United, he’s made the two division leap look like the smallest of steps - he’s already netted 11 Premiership goals.

That figure was bolstered by a hat-trick to hep United win 4-2 at Ards.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “I can’t believe I’ve come so far in one season but hopefully it continues.

“There was a lot of training over pre-season. It was hard but I knew I had to do it to get into the squad.

“(In the Premiership), you don’t get as many chances but you have to take them. If you don’t, you’ll get punished.”

Converting opportunities seems, at present, Friel’s forte. To add to his hat-trick on Saturday, he also won the penalty for the opener as Tony Kane converted his NINTH spot-kick of the season.

And Friel knows a lot of credit goes to his boss.

“(David Jeffrey) fills you full of confidence,” he said. “There’s not one time that you’re going out thinking that you’re under pressure and need to score.

“With the bunch of lads we have here, who knows where we’re going to be come the end of the season.

Friel’s first goal was teed up by strike partner Johnny McMurray as the pair continued to prove they’re arguably the best partnership in the league.

“From the first league game, we bonded,” said Friel. “It’s worked out a real treat. We have different styles. He holds the ball up, I run off it and it just seems to work.”

David McAllister briefly made it 2-1 for Ards before Craig McMillen fired in an injury-time consolation.

“The goals we conceded were criminal,” said Ards boss Niall Currie. “Every time we got ourselves back into the match, we shot ourselves in the foot again. The goals were crazy.”