Ballinamallard manager Harry McConkey has hailed their 2-0 victory over Dundela as one of their best results of the season.

The Mallards had to put the euphoria of their Irish Cup semi-final to one side and refocus on the league, but the change of competition did not disrupt their rhythm as they added another win to their impressive run of recent results.

“I was delighted with the result. I thought it was one of our best of the season,” said the manager.

“After last week I knew there was going to be a hangover but I thought our attitude was first class.

“I was asking the players how much they wanted to win games, and on Saturday what it proved was how much they wanted not to lose the game. In the first half we struggled in the last third to knit things together the way we would have liked to. At half time I thought it was a competitive performance. We had worked very hard, but I didn’t think we played anything like we can, and certainly well below how we performed the week before against Warrenpoint. We seemed a little edgy at times in our passing, where we would normally be free flowing. I thought their back four worked very hard to contain but we didn’t have enough goal threat. In the second half we knew they would be going for it and they put us under pressure, but the boys were making tackles and blocks and when they didn’t John made some fantastic stops. While we admired them I think on the day we gave them a real battle and it was a performance where we can take great pride in the result.”

The win, accompanied by events of the past week, have opened the door for Ballinamallard to start to think about snatching a last gasp promotion play-off spot.

With Carrick confirmed in second it looked as though the battle for the final play-off spot would be between Dundela and Portadown, however Dundela announced that they would not be pursuing their application for promotion which means the team finishing fourth in the league could face Carrick in the play-off.

At present the Mallards trail Portadown by six points with three games remaining, including a match between the two clubs, but McConkey is not getting carried away with the prospect of a top flight return.

“It hasn’t changed my thinking, other than it would be an incredible bonus,” he said.

“We were always going to give each game our best and play it on its merits. Every game we go into we want to win, and I want to go into the cup final with as many good performances as we can. If we get good performances we may well get results, but at this moment in time my focus is simply on the next game. All those things that are happening around it are out of our control. I have to keep a focused head on Carrick Rangers and after that we will look at Portadown.

“It has certainly given us an exciting finish to the season. I was worried that when we started the games in the top six we might not win a game. We started with a defeat to the Welders and lost 4-0 to Dundela so I felt we could lose all of the momentum that we had picked up in December and January, but I am so pleased for the players to have come back from that. It shows we have still some form about us, and shows that we are a very determined bunch to try and we will finish this season as well as we possibly can.”

The foundation of the Ballinamallard revival this season has been a solid defence. The Mallards have the third best defence in the league despite their nightmare start to the campaign, and they have put three consecutive clean sheets together as the back line continues to impress.

“That is so, so important, and does not come without a lot of commitment and hard work,” said the manager.

“We had a clean sheet against Warrenpoint, the Welders and now Dundela, and the players are now taking great pride in that. We were up against a very good front six on Saturday and there was always going to be opportunities for them during the game, but the performance of the back three was excellent. Some of our defensive play and some of our pressing I was very pleased with. They threw their bodies in the way and John Connolly was exceptional. He truly deserved his man of the match, and the goalkeeper and defenders can take great pride in their clean sheets.”

The season run-in continues this Saturday with a visit to Carrick Rangers, where the Mallards will be hoping for a repeat of their victory earlier in the season. With the Irish Cup final now less than a month away the manager is hoping not only for a morale boosting win, but also to ensure the squad remains free from injury and suspension.

Sean McEvoy is available again after missing the Dundela match to attend a trial at Portsmouth, where he impressed in matches against youth teams from Fulham and Bournemouth. Smyth, Arkinson and Kelly could also come back into contention after missing out on Saturday.

“Matty Smyth picked up a calf strain on Thursday night training and we didn’t want to take any chances with it,” explained Harry. “It’s nothing too serious and we are hoping he will be available this week. Arkinson fell in training on his arm and was very sore the next day, and didn’t feel it was going to ease off enough to risk it. It was great to get Gary Henderson 90 minutes. He did pick up a booking which will rule him out of the next two matches but he will have his suspension served before the cup final, and it allowed us to give Chris Kelly a rest as he covered enough ground last week for two games!"