Harry McConkey has refused to get down hearted after Ballinamallard slipped out of the promotion places in the Championship. A Chris Kelly handball gifted Newry a game winning penalty on Saturday and knocked the Mallards down to third in the table, but the manager is confident his side can bounce back.

“People will see it as a psychological blow perhaps but we don’t see it that way,” he said.

“We knew it was a vital game to keep Newry a distance behind us and to keep ahead of Loughgall and stay with Portadown. We have lost out on all three of those goals we were aspiring to on Saturday, but the good thing is that there is still plenty of games to be played.”

The manager is also taking confidence from the performance of his side, who pushed Newry all the way in difficult conditions.

“I was really pleased with the commitment and efforts of the players,” he admitted.

“In the conditions we asked for their battling qualities, and I thought we did out-battle Newry for a lot of the game. I felt the previous week, even though we won 5-2, between the goals we weren’t great. I felt it was other way around this week. For a lot of the game, and particularly the second half, I thought we played some really good stuff but didn’t finish it off.

“It was the counter to that the previous week when we were struggling at times and pulled ourselves out with a goal. You could say that all was missing on Saturday was finding the back of the net.

“The disappointment was that we didn’t test their keeper enough, but they were restricted to the odd corner kick and we defended them extremely well.

“Our back line were in great form and Newry had a lot of new players in but we had kept them quiet for so much of the day, to then get a deflection onto the hand of Chris Kelly which was totally unintentional, but his hand was extended from his body, and while that is the rule, it just typical of our luck at the moment.

“We responded well to that and stepped up the tempo again. I thought we had a better second half than first half and we started to cause them problems in the box. Matty Smith was very unlucky not to get on the end of one at the back post, and Nathan Cashel was taken out from behind inside the penalty area, and when that is not given by the referee it is very frustrating.

“Sometimes people say it’s too easy to put things down to luck, but everyone involved in sport knows you get moments that can swing the game against you. You shouldn’t be in sport if you can’t accept those things, and we had to accept that on Saturday.”

It is now four league games without a victory for the Mallards, but they have the opportunity to return to winning ways when they travel to struggling Knockbreda this Saturday. The manager is in no doubt about the importance of the match.

“The big thing for us is to grab these next games, and we know we need three points,” he acknowledged.

“We have to put all our energy into these forthcoming games, and I believe we will do that. Everyone will say this is nailed on for us, but we have to go with the attitude that we have to produce the same type of performance that we did against Newry and finish the way we did against Knockbreda. If we do that we will be in a good position. I’m too long in the tooth to take anything for granted, but we do know the importance of every game is beginning to be exaggerated. I am expecting to see a response from the boys.”

Jason McCartney and Dwayne McManus missed the defeat to Newry with injury but both are hoping their absences are only short term and McConkey also has the returning Darragh McBrien and Michael Glynn available for selection after the end of their Gaelic commitments.

The manager has also been impressed with some of the players excelling for the table topping Under 20 side, with Lee Frazer, Alex Holder and Sam Robb among those pushing for a spot in the first team squad.

The progress of Frazer, Holder and Simon Warrington has been rewarded this week with their selection for the IFA Western Regions squad.