A win over Ballinamallard United in Monday’s rearranged game will be enough for Ballymena to clinch a spot in the top six ahead of the league split after David Jeffrey’s charges defeated Glentoran in the Premiership for the first time this season on Friday night at The Oval.
Cathair Friel fired in the opener in the first half, Curtis Allen tapped in the equaliser for his 21st goal of the season after the break and then Kofi Balmer rifled home a volley to seal the three points for the Braidmen.
Willie Garrett was sent-off late on as the Glens lost in the league for the first time since Ronnie McFall took over the managerial reins at the Oval from Gary Haveron.
The east Belfast outfit are now one point ahead of Ballymena.
Sky Blues manager, David Jeffrey said: “It was another tremendous shift from the players. It was a deserved win because we took the game to Glentoran. And, our goals were top drawer – they were two fantastic strikes.
“You need something special to beat a goalkeeper like Elliott Morris – and they were special.
“I think Glentroran were fortunate their goal was allowed to stand . . . it was a certain foul on our goalkeeper.
“We’ve now taken six points from two difficult away games, but the job is still not finished.
“We know how difficult it will be on Monday night, but we have now given ourselves a chance – it’s in our own hands.
“The schedule we had in terms of the games we have played over this past period has been absolute madness. I suppose it was due to postponed fixtures over the period of bad weather.
“The boys put in a powerful shift on Tuesday night against Cliftonville. Yes, we had a bit of good fortune at times, but no one could say we didn’t deserve the win.
“Glentoran have showed great improvement under Ronnie. A point really would have secured them a top six place. I suppose there was a little bit of nerves on their part.
“But on our part, it was sheer desperation. There was no other way of describing it.
“It didn’t make for an entertaining game of football, but it did make an enthralling game of football in terms of commitment, effort and work rate.”
Meanwhile, Glentoran manager Ronnie McFall: said “We looked nervous for large parts of the game . . . we never got a hold of the ball and our passing was ragged. “We never started well, although the boys are very young.
“We never hit the level of the performance we had at Windsor Park last week.
“I think the occasion got to some of the players. Even once we got back on terms, we sat back and invited Ballymena on.
“I thought we could go on and win it, or even get the draw which would have been enough to guarantee our place in the top six.
“It’s my first league defeat since coming to the club, and it came at a bad time.
“In saying that, we pulled back eight points on Ballymena so it was disappointing not to get over the line.
“Knowing what was at stake, it maybe got to the players.
“We were desperate to claim our place in the top six. It means you are playing in front of bigger crowds and there is a lot to play for especially, with the European play-offs coming up at the end of the season.
“We have to dust ourselves down and go again. We are now looking for favours from Ballinamallard United who play Ballymena on Monday night.”