Ballymena United’s Cathair Friel keeps hitting the target

Ballymena United's Cathair Friel after scoring against Cliftonville
Ballymena United's Cathair Friel after scoring against Cliftonville

Striker Cathair Friel made it five goals in five games as his strike helped Ballymena United to a 3-2 win against Cliftonville at The Showgrounds.

The powerfully built centre-forward seems to have taken to the Danske Bank Premiership like a duck to water as he has now racked up six goals in eight games since moving up two divisions from Limavady United.

Friel’s goal - sandwiched between two Tony Kane penalties - gave United the three points and the striker says he is enjoying his football with David Jeffrey’s Sky Blues.

“Scoring the goals is filling me with confidence and they are going in from inside the box and outside the box,” he said. “Like the goal today. I hit it, it took a deflection and ended up in the net.

“I set myself the target of getting 10 goals this season and I may have to move that target and up the standard.

“At the start of pre-season I felt the difference between Limavady and United.

“It was very tough as it is two leagues above.

“But I put in the hard work and it is paying off and hopefully that continues.

“It has been a long haul getting my fitness up, but I am enjoying it.

“I didn’t really know what to expect and it is a big step-up, but it is great to play with Johnny McMurray up front.

“We are similar types of players and we just seemed to have clicked and gelled well.” he added.

And Friel admitted he had a chance to come to The Showgrounds in the middle of last season.

“There was interest from United and Glenn Ferguson in January but I was playing from my home town club and I wanted to stay and beat the goal-scoring record and I did that.

“I was always hoping to move up because I want to test myself. In the summer I didn’t know what to expect with Glenn having left the club. I thought my opportunity had gone but it hadn’t and I’m glad of that.”

And Friel says he is enjoying working under United manager Jeffrey.

“He is great and he does not have favourites,” he said. “If you play well you are in the team. He fills you full of confidence and the boys seem to be getting on well with him.

“No-one falls out with him and the team are doing well under him.”

Cliftonville’s goals came from David McDaid and substitute Ross Lavery.

And manager Gerard Lyttle was disappointed not to have got something from the game.

“I am gutted that we have been beaten by two penalties and a deflection,” he said. “It’s hard to stomach.

“I don’t think we played that well. We started off alright and got the goal, but after the goal we stopped playing.

“We were creating good chances down the wings with Chris Curran, but then we stopped playing.

“In the second half we started well, but it is the story of our season that we switched off at crucial times.

“We also had to work hard for our goals and Ballymena didn’t and that is the disappointing thing.

“Hopefully the lads aren’t feeling sorry for themselves. Hopefully they are angry to lose the game.

“The season so far has not been ideal and we have not started that well. It has been an up-and-down season.

“We had two wins and then the game against Linfield was called off and maybe we lost a wee bit of the momentum we had built up.

“But no excuses, we didn’t play as well as we can. We also didn’t create enough chances in the second half.

“We haven’t had a settled side due to a number of reasons.

“But no excuses but I don’t think we deserved to get beat but I don’t think we deserved to win either.”