Ballinamallard manager Gavin Dykes is not hiding away from the importance of the next week to his side’s hopes of survival.
The Mallards face three of the sides in the bottom half of the table in an eight day spell, starting on Saturday away to Ards. And Dykes knows it is crucial for his side to start picking up points and stay in touch with those sides above them before the New Year when he will be looking to bring in a number of new faces.
“It is a massive week for a number of different reasons,” said Dykes. 
“We have struggled when we’ve had to play three games in a week because of the size of the squad that we have, we’ve two games away from home where there is long journeys involved and then we have a derby game at home against Dungannon on Boxing Day. There are a lot of obstacles for us but we’ll focus on Ards first of all and take it from there. 
“We are well capable of going there and winning but we are also aware that we haven’t got a point away from home yet so we have to start now and try and address that. We have to try and get points on the board before we bring people in because that will give us the platform to push on. 
“Saturday is a big, big game and I just want to get people fit for Saturday and then we’ll worry about Tuesday,” he added.
One player who Dykes is hoping will be available for the game is new signing Ryan O’Reilly, with the Mallards waiting on international clearance for the centre half.
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s quick, he can play a bit and he’s aggressive. He’s played with Stoke in England and I’ve been chasing him for seven months but he has been up training with us and I’m delighted to have got him. He will bring a lot to the party and it is an area we needed to look at because we have been giving up a lot of chances and a lot of goals,” said the Ducks boss.
Ryan McConnell and Blaine Burns will return to the squad following suspension while Dykes expects both Colm McLaughlin and Shane McGinty to come into contention for starts with both having been carrying knocks.
“All being will Colm McLaughlin will be alright. We could have taken a chance on him against Coleraine but we didn’t want to risk him while McGinty will also come into the reckoning. He has an ongoing problem with his big toe and we have to mind that but all going well he will be back in the team on Saturday,” he said.
However, Niall Owens has been ruled out for a couple of weeks through injury and Dykes admits that’s a big loss.
“Niall picked up an injury in the last five minutes of training last Thursday night and that will rule him out for a few week which is a big blow because he is an outlet, he runs in behind and he causes defences problems,” commented Dykes.
Dykes, who also confirmed that attacker Niall Brennan has been released by the club, feels his side are starting to create more chances but knows that they need to offer more in an attacking sense and will have to be more clinical if they are to survive in the Premiership.
“I felt we created chances against Ballymena and again against Coleraine on Saturday but I still think that we can create more. We are not getting enough balls into the box or enough runs from midfield and we are going to try and add to our attacking players as well in January. 
“It’s a big challenge to try and get us out of this and stay in the division but it is something I’m looking forward to and I’m totally confident that we will be fine,” he added.