David Jeffrey believes that Ballymena United are getting down to the “real business” of their crucial end-of-season run-in this weekend.
The Sky Blues boss, who has overseen an unbeaten run of four games since taking charge last month, insists that his side still has a lot to do as the Danske Bank Premiership campaign reaches its post-’split’ stage this week.
The remaining five games of Ballymena’s season will be against the other five teams who finished in the bottom six of the 12-team division, with all six teams still mathematically involved in the relegation battle.
The first of them is against Dungannon this Saturday (3pm) with eight-placed United travelling to Stangmore Park two points behind their opponents.
United’s midweek draw at Glenavon was the third draw in Jeffrey’s first four games against top six opposition and the manger hopes his side can maintain that level of performance in the remaining games against clubs scrapping for top-flight survival.
“We’ve done our best to get points out of those games against top six sides but the real business starts now after the split,” said Jeffrey.
“A lot can change very quickly in those games when teams are playing against each other - this is a good platform but that is all it is.
“Don’t anyone get carried away because we’re still in a relegation battle, make no mistake about that.
Until it is mathematically impossible for us not to be dragged in, that’s is when I will say we’re not in a relegation battle.
That’s not me being cautious, it’s being realistic,” said Jeffrey, who continues to be without suspended midfielder Gavin Taggart.
Away from the relegation battle, Saturday’s fixture is also a key game for United in their hopes of clinching seventh position and a place in the play-off system for Europa League qualification.
Dungannon, who currently occupy seventh spot, will not be eligible to take part, having not applied for a UEFA licence, and if they maintain their current position until the end of the season, it means the play-offs - a new initiative introduced by the Northern Ireland Football League this season to maintain interest for clubs in the bottom six - will only involve the clubs in third to sixth positions.
Seven Towers Supporters’ Club transport to Stangmore Park leaves Henry Street car park at 1.30pm.