Ballinamallard manager Harry McConkey was proud of his player’s efforts as they came within minutes of defeating Linfield in their League Cup clash at Ferney Park. 
The Mallards have never beaten the Blues at Ferney, but were on the verge of knocking out the league cup holders before late drama turned the game on its head.
“We threw in some kids that needed game time and some experience in big games and it was a wee bit of a gamble but I was so, so proud of them,” said McConkey. 
“I spoke to David (Healy) before the game and he said they were paying us the utmost respect with their team selection. He put out a very, very strong team. We maybe didn’t give them the same respect, because we wanted to get game time for the likes of John Edgar, Sam Robb, Callum Moorehead and Simon Warrington. We got off to a wonderful start and the quality of the goal was excellent. 
“We kept our shape very well, we were very difficult to break down, and we were able to cause them problems in their penalty area. I was delighted with how our players kept going and how they hung in there. 
“Sean’s goal to make it 5-4 was justified. They had one disallowed that would have made it 6-3 and I thought that would have been a total injustice. I was most pleased of all for our supporters. To see the excitement and drama of a 5-4 game is great. The only way they will keep coming to watch us is if we can entertain them and show them that we are prepared to give everything for the cause. I would say it was worth the entry fee tonight!”
The turning point of the game came in the 87th minute when the referee awarded possession to Linfield in a dangerous area after the ball cannoned off the official. 
McConkey and his players were adamant that the referee had got it wrong, allowing Linfield to cross the ball for Reynolds to score the equaliser that took the game to extra time. 
“I was very disappointed in the referee’s decision,” said Harry. 
“When it hits the referee whoever the ball comes off last gets the ball back. While Kirk Millar played the ball and it came off the referee, it came off Callum (Moorhead) and the ball should have come to us and not the attacking team. I thought there was a lack of clarity amongst the officials. From that, they score in the 87th minute and that is enough to floor any team. The Linfield players after the match said they thought we were hard done by and that is a lot of plaudits to get from a team like Linfield.”
Having taken an early lead, the Mallards saw the score line reversed before half time with two goals coming from Linfield corners, and that was a source of frustration for the manager. 
“We did talk a lot about Linfield’s greatest threat being set plays, and it was disappointing how they scored their first two goals,” he admitted. 
“We talked about Shane Lavery, we saw clips of him stepping out from the goal line and getting the header. He did it against Coleraine and he did it in Europe and we knew it was coming but we didn’t defend it.”
Despite the defeat the manager was delighted with the positives that came from the defeat. 
“I hate extra time on a Tuesday night when you have a massive game on Saturday but I think there is huge learning in it for us,” he said. 
“We have seen the quality of Callum Moorhead, Sam Robb and his discipline and work rate and energy, and Simon (Warrington) as well. I thought John Edgar’s run for the first goal was excellent and he will come late and stretch teams. We saw Ross (Taheny) at right wing back and Sean (McEvoy) in the middle, so there was a lot to be learned and I think that is really healthy for us.”
Ballinamallard return to league action on Saturday when they welcome third placed Dundela to Ferney Park, and the manager is expecting another tough test. 
“Dundela are a very experienced team with quality individuals,” acknowledged the manager. 
“Like so many of the teams in this league their strength is the top part of the pitch. I know if we can keep our discipline and get into the game and get at their back line and take control of the midfield, then we can take control of the game like we did during the second half at Loughgall last week.”
Ryan Morris will remain on the sidelines for another week with injury but Dwayne McManus is expected back to training on Thursday night as he looks to prove his fitness. Aaron Arkinson missed the Linfield match with an inflammation of his knee but is hopeful it will have settled enough to allow him to come in to contention for selection for Saturday.