Referee Tim Marshall won’t be on David Jeffrey’s Christmas card list this year after turning down a penalty appeal at the very death of their 1-0 Danske Bank Premiership defeat to Linfield at Windsor Park.
The result means the Blues go nine points clear of Jeffrey’s Ballymena United at the top of the league standings and the Sky Blues chief was convinced that Linfield’s Jimmy Callacher had handled the ball while stopping an Adam Lecky shot at the very end of the game after Joshua Robinson had put the Blues 1-0 up.
“It’s quite simple. I have the responsibility and accountability for the performance of my players who yet again performed to a very high standard and high level.
“I thought they were excellent and I thought we were the better side. Unfortunately there are some things that I have no control over and that includes the performance of the referee and we were denied a stonewall penalty.
“I waited. I didn’t go and confront the referee on the pitch or in the tunnel. I waited and went to see him afterwards and he says ‘he will have a look at it.’ but for me it was a stonewall penalty and my own players are very clear about it.
“And without wanting to name them, two Linfield players also thought it was a clear penalty.
“I am bitterly disappointed. Last weekend we played really well but I congratulated Linfield because they did what they had to do. They kept a clean sheet and got it over the line and I have no issue with that.
“But something as blatant as that was today - is hard to take. It was a big, big decision.”
The Sky Blues are now nine points behind Linfield - they have a game in hand - but Jeffrey says they have exceed all expectations so far this season.
“It’s a long way back. But let us refocus. I said to the players today - what was our aim? Top six and a crack at Europe.
“We have got the top six and we are looking for a crack at Europe. End of story,” added Jeffrey.
And Linfield manager David Healy - who had just watched his side’s 21st clean sheet of the season - says he does not care if people say ‘lucky Linfield.’
“Other teams say lucky Linfield get all the decisions. But somehow lucky Linfield have won 1-0. Somehow lucky Linfield have kept all these clean sheets.
“How lucky Linfield have bigger budgets and more players. So hopefully we remain lucky over the next two months and see where it takes us,” he said.
And Healy admitted Ballymena gave his side a run for their money at the National Stadium.
“It was a tough game and we changed the formation because we wanted to match Ballymena up.
“It was played at a frantic and I don’t think there were to many players putting their foot on the ball and creating to many chances.
“But we did enough and I proud of the players for their effort, commitment and attitude not only for today but for the season to date.
“I thought we were better in the second half and don’t think there was much in it during the first half.
“And I am not going to sit after the game and wonder did we deserve to win the game? We did enough to win the game.”
And Healy praised his defensive unit as they once again kept a clean sheet.
“The back five were outstanding. That is 21 clean sheets this season and our goalkeepers and defenders are in there counting them.
“That was our 39th game today against Ballymena and that is an incredible stat for part-time players and for them to have that amount of clean sheets is a credit to them.
“I am really proud of the players and they have been immense.”