Ballinamallard defender Craig Hill reckons the unique team spirit in the dressing room will carry them through to a top six finish in their debut season in the Irish Premier League.

"We definitely can get there," he said. "Of all the clubs I've been at it's the best changing room I've been in. Everyone gets on really well, and even on the pitch no-one is really nagging at each other. It's more about encouragement, and that has really helped us this year. The result on Saturday was a big point. We have a few really big games still to go against Cliftonville, Linfield and Glentoran but we have played them all and beaten them all except Glentoran so I definitely think we can push on." The performances of the defence have been the rock that they have built their season on, but after conceding goals in five consecutive games they were glad to keep Coleraine out on Saturday.

"We've got a good understanding and it's nice to get a clean sheet," he admitted. "We've had a couple of games where we have defended well but we have made one slip or one mistake and given away a goal, so it was good to get back to a clean sheet again." Craig is yet another product of Ballinamallard's successful youth programme. He joined the club as a six year old and worked his way up through the underage teams until at eighteen he was signed by Dundee United.

While at Tannadice he played for the first team against Rangers in a Premier League fixture before eventually coming back to his home club, where he says he has not been shocked by their remarkable season.

"We're not surprised that we have done well," he said. "We're just happy that we've proved we can do well, and we've exceeded what everyone expected us to do. We always knew we had the ability but the other teams have much bigger squads and we didn't know if we would be able to stand up to that, but I think we have proved that now. We we only have a few games left we all feel that it is more important than ever to get the points on the board. We have always taken each game as it comes and we won't look too far ahead, although as we get fewer games to play each one becomes more and more like a cup final." Ballinamallard started the season with Mark McConkey at right back, but when he picked up a knee injury Craig capitalised on his opportunity.

"Of course you want to play from the outset and it was a bit disappointing not to be in the team but Whitey always said that if I got my head down and worked hard I would get my chance and unfortunately for Mark McConkey, he got a bad injury and I was ready and thankful to get on," he said. "I am predominantly a centre back but when I'm at right back now I'm starting to get an understanding of the position more. I'm not as attacking as Mark McConkey was but defensively I'm pretty happy and I think that as the games have gone on I'm starting to show a wee bit more going forward." Whitey's faith in the young defender has been justified by his recent performances, and Craig acknowledges that Whitey's contribution has been a vital ingredient of their memorable season, even if the manager has on occasion had to unleash the hairdryer treatment.

"He has his moments as anyone who has stood on the sideline will know, but in general he's not too bad!" said Craig. "He knows what he is doing and he has got the results. When you see what Whitey has done in the club, everyone respects him."