Irish Premiership: Jeffrey determined to seal European spot

Goal celebrations for Ballymena in their 4-0 away win over the Bannsiders last month
Goal celebrations for Ballymena in their 4-0 away win over the Bannsiders last month

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey is seeking a win over Coleraine to help secure European football next season.

Three points against the Bannsiders, coupled with a loss for Crusaders and dropped points by Glenavon, will ensure second place and automatic qualification for the Europa League.

Crusaders continue their pursuit of the Sky Blues as they visit Cliftonville on Saturday while Glenavon face Linfield.

"The race is on to make Europe - that's our focus," said Jeffrey.

"We'd love to get there automatically and big performances are needed in our final three games."

Linfield clinched the Gibson Cup last weekend to end Ballymena's title challenge and attention now switches to who will finish in the runner-up spot.

United are in pole position with four points separating them and the third-placed Crues, while Glenavon are a point further back.

Coleraine will be out for revenge against United after a 4-0 home thumping last month with Andy McGrory bagging a treble.

David Jeffrey succeeded Glenn Ferguson as Sky Blues manager in May 2016
David Jeffrey succeeded Glenn Ferguson as Sky Blues manager in May 2016

Jeffrey is preparing for "three massive games" with encounters against Glenavon and Crusaders completing the league season.

"Thus far the players have done fabulously well and it's been a tremendous journey since I came here three years ago," added Jeffrey.

"When you consider this team is boxed between Linfield and Crusaders, we're punching well above our weight."

Crusaders can also make the Europa League through the Irish Cup, with Championship side Ballinamallard United their opponents in the 4 May decider.

But next up for Stephen Baxter's men is a short trip to Solitude for a north Belfast derby.

Cliftonville midfielder Liam Bagnall tackles Crues opponent Ross Clarke
Crusaders earned a 2-0 victory over the Reds when the sides met at Seaview last month

"It's very tight but it's great for the league - it keeps people on their toes until the end of the season," said Baxter.

"We get a couple of bites of the cherry with the cup final but we've still three big football games to play before that and we'll give everything we have."

Glenavon visit the Blues while ninth-placed Dungannon Swifts will hope to keep their European play-off hopes alive in a Milltown meeting with Warrenpoint Town.

Institute are also in the play-offs hunt as they prepare to host bottom side Ards, who are three points behind relegation rivals Newry City.

Newry can double the gap on Ards if they beat Glentoran in Friday night's game at the Showgrounds.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Saturday, 19 April (15:00 GMT)
BBC Radio Ulster coverage and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website
Ballymena UtdvColeraine
CliftonvillevCrusaders
InstitutevArds
LinfieldvGlenavon
Warrenpoint TownvDungannon Swifts

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