Ballinamallard centre back Matty Smyth admits the team are happy with the position they are in as they approach this Saturday’s top of the table clash with Championship leaders Portadown.

Twelve months ago the Mallards were struggling to haul themselves into the top half after underperforming in the early months of the campaign, but despite the odd defeat this season they have been consistent challengers and go into this weekend’s match in second spot, six points adrift.

“We are happy with the way things have gone this season,” said Matty.

“I think we are reacting well when we do get beaten and we are not falling into a rut like we have done previously. At the minute we are losing the odd game but we are still in the pack.

“We are up there and we are giving ourselves a chance which is the main thing. We will be taking one game at a time and not looking too far ahead because it’s a bit of a crazy league and anyone can beat anyone else, but we definitely want to be pushing up there around the top of the table.”

Victory over the Ports would reduce the gap at the top of the table to three points and Smyth is confident the Mallards can bring their impressive recent run of results to an end.

“They are obviously a good side but we have nothing to fear,” he said.

“I think it will be a really good game because both teams like to play football. They are top of the table but they have been scraping results. In similar matches where we have been beaten by the odd goal, they have managed to get a draw or get something from the match. It’s a big game and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Smyth returned to his home town club over two years ago after a spell playing football in England and Scotland, and he admitted it took him time to settle back into part time football.

“I had a lot of good experiences over there both in football and in life,” he said.

“It was difficult coming back and playing part time again but I’ve been back now a couple of years and I have fitted back into it.

“I had last year in the Championship to see what the league was about and it surprised me a bit. It was so fast and so physical, but this year knowing what it was like I think I have adapted well.”

Although he enjoyed the professional football experience, he admits that a return to full time playing is not his main concern at present.

“At the minute education is taking priority,” he revealed.

“When I went away I had very little education so I’m having to come back now I do it all over again. My friends are finishing Uni and I am having to start it all over again. Education is going to be my main priority at the minute so I can get something behind me but if the opportunity came to return to full-time football then that would be a positive.”

Smyth has become a key player in a defence that boosts the second best goals against record in the league, but he has also played his part at the other end of the pitch, scoring five goals to make him the club’s joint second highest scorer in this campaign.

“I’ve got a few goals but I’m not too sure how that happened,” he said.

“It’s been the quality of the delivery really and I’ve just got into the right area and then been able to head them in. Hopefully I can keep that going.

“It’s nice to get a bit of a partnership going at the back. Obviously it’s a lot easier for everyone if we play together regularly, but saying that Ben McCann came in at the weekend against Knockbreda and he settled in effortlessly so it just shows the quality we have in the squad.

“Against Loughgall we gave away goals that weren’t like us this season which was disappointing, but overall we have been quite good defensively and I have been happy enough of my own form.

“The whole team has been playing well which makes it easier for everybody to play well.”