Ballinamallard captain James McKenna has labelled Saturday’s performance against Linfield as ‘unacceptable’ but he acknowledges that games against the top teams in the league won’t decide their fate at the end of the season, that will be decided by games against those teams around them in the table.
McKenna made his return to the starting line up for the first time since the opening game of the season following a shoulder injury and it turned out to be a tough day at the office for the Ducks as David Healy’s champions hit them for six.
McKenna accepts that a difficult run of games in an eight day period took its toll but he states that they have to be more competitive than they were on Saturday if they are to turn things around.
“On a personal and team level, as much as the Linfield game is one that we can right off, it was an unacceptable performance. You cannot expect to be so poor in a game against one of the top teams and then just bounce back the next week against one of the teams around you. You have to at least be competitive in every game and we certainly weren’t competitive on Saturday and that’s something that we need to look at. 
“In fairness, to have played the teams that we did in the space of eight days and the travelling that we did, you could see that the legs were gone and there was not much Gavin could do as we don’t have the squad to make wholesale changes.
“It is a tough defeat  to take and everybody will be pretty low coming off the back of that defeat, especially as it came in front of our own supporters,” he said.
The Mallards are in the middle of a run of fixtures that will see them play the top five in consecutive games.
“I’ve never known a run like it, we have the top five all in a row and that’s the last thing you need when you are at the bottom of the table.
“In the position we are in at the minute though there is absolutely no point in feeling sorry for ourselves. As players we have to try and lift ourselves, we know it wasn’t good enough, it was embarrassing performance by us, but we just have to try and put it out of our heads and look forward to the next game,” he said.
Next up for the Mallards is an away game against Cliftonville followed by a home clash with Glenavon and McKenna says that they have to have the right attitude going into those games.
“Prior to Saturday performances had been better. We beat Carrick and did well against Crusaders and Coleraine and going forward we have to get into the mindset that we had for the those games when we competed well. We must have that mindset  for the Cliftonville and Glenavon games.”
The experienced Mallards skipper though knows that whether or not the Mallards will be a Premiership team next season will come down to how they perform against the teams in the lower reaches of the table.
“It is going to be a mini league now at the bottom of the table and our target between now and the end of the season has to be to pick up more points than anybody else in those games.We are going to have to beat the teams around us if we are going to stay in the league, that ultimately is going to decide whether we stay in the league or not,” he stated.
And he says that they are going to have to have a bit of luck with injuries as well between now and the end of the season. On Saturday, the Mallards had to do without Stuart Hutchinson, Ryan Curran, Ross Taheny and Niall Owens and they simply cannot afford to be without key players.
“There is no hiding the fact that the squad is light and we are lacking in certain areas. If we are going to get out of the situation we are in then we are going to need a bit of luck on the injury front between now and April,” added McKenna.
On a personal level, McKenna was glad to get 90 minutes under his belt in the first team but his only concern is the Mallards staying in the top flight.
“It was good to get the game under my belt, it’s my first 90 minutes in about ten months so that was the only small positive that I could take from Saturday and hopefully it will stand to me. 
“Listen, I’m just focusing on one game at a team and hopefully I can stay injury free. To be honest, all I want to see is the team moving forward and doing well and if they were doing well I wouldn’t even be contemplating playing but Gavin and management team felt I could help so that’s what I’ll try and do,” he stated.