Ballinamallard manager Whitey Anderson has praised the character of his side after they came from behind to snatch a draw on their Premier League debut.
Ever since clinching promotion the club has been looking forward to the moment Ferney Park could welcome Premier League football, but going 2-0 down after half an hour threatened to dampen spirits before a stirring second half fight back changed the course of the match and lifted the mood around the ground.
"I felt we were unfortunate to be two down and I told them at half time that we were very much in the game and if we got a goal we could push on from there," said Whitey. "We showed tremendous character. We have talked about having tremendous team spirit and you could see that on Saturday. We kept going right to the end and I was delighted we got a result. As we all know it was a big occasion for the club but the focus of the players was on the game and although I thought they were perhaps a bit nervous at the start, in the second half the boys were tremendous. They responded well and they always believed they could get back into the game. We pushed on and dominated the second 45 minutes as far as I was concerned. Not only did we equalise but we nearly nicked it at the end. A point was probably a fair result and there were a lot of positives to take from it, certainly a lot more positives than negatives. I thought our fitness levels in the last 15 minutes were far superior to Dungannons and I think we played some decent football, which we said we would do in this league. I'm delighted not only for the players, but also the chairman Dessie Quinn and all those people who have worked tremendously hard to get the place in order. It's great for them as well and to get a point on the day was great for everyone from Ballinamallard and the wider area." It was a much changed team from the side that dominated the Championship last season. Four of Whitey's summer signings slotted straight into the first eleven with Liam Martin coming off the bench in the second half for an impressive cameo performance, and the manager was pleased with the contribution of the new players.
"I was more than happy with the way the new signings fitted in, and I think with time you can see them having an even bigger influence," he said. "Conor O'Grady has great experience and he never stopped talking and organising on the pitch, albeit he has to catch up on match fitness. Alvin Rouse will be a big plus to us, I have no doubt about that, and I think he'll be worth ten points to us at the end of the season. Ciaran Harper settled in well at centre back and Ryan Campbell showed he's going to be a good player this year. His strength and movement and ability to hold the ball up was good. Liam Martin came on and added a lot of spark and looked very lively and he is definitely one for the future." With the anticipation and excitement of the much hyped opening fixture now behind them, Ballinamallard can focus on their on-field performance, starting with this weekend's trip to Lisburn Distillery. They go into the match with no new injury concerns, although Steve Feeney is still likely to be a week away from a return to the first team squad. Despite the match being only the second of a long season, the manager is well aware that every point could be vital in the battle for survival. "Every game is going to be a massive game, but we are looking forward to it, and that performance in the second half gave the boys a lot of confidence," said Whitey. "I know it's only one game but I think we showed we have the strength of character and a bit of ability as well and we will carry that forward to the Lisburn game. We know it's important for us to get points off the teams that are perceived to be in the bottom half. Distillery lost their first game but I'm sure it's going to be a very tight even contest and if we can play like we did in the second half (against Dungannon) I think we can get something from the game."