David Jeffrey said his Ballymena United players “fought their guts out” to earn a point in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Cliftonville.
The Sky Blues relinquished a two-goal lead but played for more than half the game with 10 men following the first half dismissal of Gavin Taggart.
“It certainly was a challenging afternoon,” admitted Jeffrey, whose side stretched their unbeaten run to three games since the new manager’s arrival.
“I thought we started very brightly and first half in particular we were certainly the better side.
“We were disappointed with the goal we conceded - that was an individual error but I told Alan he has made several great saves for us so we didn’t focus on that and in the second half he made several excellent saves.
“There would maybe have been a time when I would have absolutely panned Alan but against Crusaders and Warrenpoint he was magnificent. When a goalie makes mistakes they are always highlighted. The pitch probably contributed but a goalkeeper of Alan’s ability. He then showed a mental strength whereas before a mistake might have played on his mind.
“We were disappointed with the sending off. I didn’t see exactly what happened, I had no view of it.
“However, I spoke to (referee) Ross (Dunlop) and he said heads came together.
“Speaking to Gavin, he said he could have reacted in exactly the same way as James Knowles but ultimately, you don’t put the referee in that situation.
“I’m not in any way going to blame the referee or say he was wrong in any shape or form. There mightn’t have been a lot of contact but he has got to give what he sees.
“I said to the players at half-time ‘gentlemen, when you’re down to 10 men and in the situation you’re in, you can either see it as a burden or a challenge’.
“I love challenges and I want my players to love challenges and I thought in the second half they really rose to the challenge.
“They fought their absolute guts out, they threw themselves into tackles, we cleared two or three off the line through Jonny Frazer.
“On training on Thursday night we were working on shape and we were asking for people when we don’t have the ball to work back and Jonny didn’;t do it and I absolutely roasted him.
I told him, if you don’t do it here, you’ll not do it on the pitch. Later on in the training session he did exactly as he was asked and after the match I told him ‘all I asked you to do was something you did before, I would never ask you to do something you couldn’t do’.
“Willie Faulkner was ill this week and was on a course of antibiotics for conjunctivitis. He came and put a shift in that I felt was incredible. He epitomised the spirit in the team. He went out and played his eye strings out.
“Second half in particular our support was our 11th man - I thought our supporters were absolutely fantastic.
“They backed us, they kept us going, they sang and they applauded - that was really good backing.
“When players get that type of support and when fans get that type of effort from players then it’s a collective effort,” added Jeffrey.