Ballinamallard booked their place in the last 16 of the Irish Cup on Saturday but for manager Harry McConkey, the focus quickly switched back to league matters with a meeting with third placed Loughgall this Saturday followed by a clash with top of the table Portadown a week later.

“Our only focus now is on Loughgall in the league this Saturday. We have seen it time and time again that slip ups can happen so easily so we are determined to look after only ourselves and try and keep our momentum going,” said McConkey.

The Mallards currently sit ten points clear of Loughgall in the table and McConkey knows that they will be determined to close that gap at a ground that has proven to be good for the visitors in recent times.

“Loughgall have won their last two matches here so this is a good ground for them and they won’t be coming with any fear but we will have to show real grit and determination to get that one over the line before we go to Portadown.”

Loughgall were the last side to beat the Mallards, coming away from Ferney Park with a 3-2 win at the end of November. Since then McConkey’s charges have won five in a row, including a victory over Portadown. The Ducks boss knows though that every team poses a threat and his side need to be on top of their game every week.

“Our players know that there can be no letting up as we know there is a real determination in the teams we play. Every team has a threat and they need to be respected,” he said.

In terms of player availability, McConkey has Aaron Arkinson back in contention although he will be without Duwayne McMnaus for another week or so due to an ankle knock.

Matty Smyth sat out the cup tie as he is one card away from a suspension but should come back in while he would be hopeful that Sean McEvoy will be available after missing out against Dollingstown with a deadleg.

The Ducks were made to work for their win against Dollingstown on Saturday but they got the job done which was the goal at the outset.

“I’m delighted as it is another win on the back of the run that we are having. I said the most important thing for us was not to hit a pothole which we have done in the past and we have to be focussed on getting through to the next round of the cup purely because we want to go into the Loughgall game in real confidence.”

On the game itself, he added: “We had a good few early chances which we didn’t take but they only really had one chance in the first half and we eventually got our goal through Nathan.

“In the second half, they came out and had a real determination not to let the game get away from them and when we had chances we didn’t take them.

Late on they went three up top as they had nothing to lose and they were very close to getting a goal in the last seconds of the game but we saw it out and we can now put this to bed for a couple of weeks,” said McConkey.

The manager went on to praise the goal scorer.

“I was delighted to see Nathan back on the pitch and he got a very important goal for us. He was a real thorn in their side in the first half and it is good to know that we have others pitching in with goals. I still feel that both him an Josh McIlwaine can make a real contribution to our performances between now and April,” added Harry.

The draw for the last 16 pitted the Mallards with an away tie against Championship basement side Knockbreda and while McConkey would have loved a home draw, he feels that they have a good record at their ground.

“”Like everybody else we would love to have got a home game but we have done well at Knockbreda the last two times we have played there so that should give the boys confidence.

“Overall it is a tie we would be happy to take at this stage of the competition and if we can get through it would have us in the quarter-finals and to do that two years in a row would be a great achievement,” he said.