Ballinamallard manager Harry McConkey has described the team’s latest defeat as ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’.

The heavy defeat to Portadown was another low point in a disappointing season so far, but the manager believes there are positives to be taken from a frustrating day.

“It sounds crazy but in between the goals we were every bit a match for Portadown. It wasn’t that we were ever being completely run over,” said Harry.

“The bad bits were the defensive bits and the individual errors. The good bits were that we never gave up and we continued to match them in most areas in terms of footballing ability. The ugly bit was the score line, which was horrible, as the league position continues to be extremely ugly. We need to get ourselves winning ugly and we are determined this Saturday to do that.”

Defensive fragility was again to the fore for the Mallards, and the manger admitted they once again failed to defend as they should have and failed to adapt to a change of formation at the back.

“We had been playing a 3-4-3 system and it had given us some joy but with Matthew Smyth suspended it ruled out our combination of Smyth, Taheny and O’Reilly,” explained McConkey. “We were conscious that with a back three we might be exposed out wide with their wingers. We thought the back four would be best suited, but we didn’t defend those areas well at all and our back four had a difficult day with a lot of individual errors. We have dissected the tape and the players will know they have to do a lot better than that.”

Kevin Braniff netted a hat-trick for Portadown, and the striker’s trio of goals was a source of frustration for the manager, who had highlighted the danger Braniff would pose in the build up to the match.

“Our Thursday night preparation was all about Braniff and the wide players,” he revealed.

“We set up to work on that and to be truthful we were very disappointed that we gave people who we knew were dangerous, space inside the box. At half time the team talk was one demanding that we needed to see a reaction. Clearly it was embarrassing to be 4-0 down through defensive errors to a team that we could match. In fairness to them we came out strong and had an appeal for a penalty for handball. Yet again we lost the ball coming out of defence and when we were showing a bit of hunger to make an impact in the game, we got caught and they cut us open. After that we continued to play and we showed bravery on the ball all day. We knew we were a match for them if we retained the ball, but in both boxes we failed to defend in our box and failed to convert in their box.”

Ballinamallard’s next opportunity to turn their season around comes with a Ferney Park fixture against Harland and Wolff Welders, and the boss is increasingly aware that the team will have to turn their form around quickly.“I will be looking for a reaction from the boys,” he said. “It is so important that I get that because we have a massive run-in between now and Christmas. If we are going to make an impression at all and get some stability in this league then we need to be making an impression now. We need to step it up now and I would love to give the home supporters and the whole club a win on Saturday.”

On a personal level, there was a boost for McConkey last week when he led the Northern Ireland Regions Cup team to victory over Macedonia at the National Stadium at Windsor.

Narrow defeats to Portugal and Russia ended the Northern Ireland hopes but McConkey was delighted to get to lead the team out at Windsor Park on Sunday.

“I have always taken it as a huge honour to manage my country since being appointed in the Killyhevlin Hotel by the Junior International Committee in January 2005. To eventually manage at the National Stadium and to win is probably one of my proudest achievements.

“Yes, it has been physically and mentally demanding but it has also given me fresh oxygen and fresh ideas with my players at Ballinamallard and most importantly has allowed me no time to navel gaze and feel sorry for myself. I am trying to instil that very attitude to the coaches and players at Ferney Park who I love working with,” he said.