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Ballinamallard take on Cliftonville tonight

ANDY Crawford has warned Ballinamallard United supporters that the battle for survival is going to be a long haul.
On Saturday the Mallards suffered a “demoralising” 1-0 defeat at relegation rivals Warrenpoint Town, a result that means the Ferney Park outfit is still four points behind Carrick Rangers, but a whopping 10 adrift of Matthew Tipton’s Town.
Following an encouraging 2-2 draw against Glentoran the previous week, Mallards assistant Crawford admitted the defeat at Milltown had been a major setback.
“It was demoralising, the journey home again was a quiet affair,” said the Castlederg man.
“It’s going to be a long battle and the best we can hope for now is to reel in Carrick and take it from there.
“It’s a big challenge and we have to be realistic about it. It’s a good league, there are plenty of quality teams. If you’re not up for every game you’re not going to get the result you want.
“The players know they let themselves down in the first half against Warrenpoint.
“We were slow to start and we got done by a corner. It’s a corner that Town work on, the players were well warned about it, but they didn’t carry out our instructions.
“Town tried it three times and scored at the third attempt.  
“We huffed and puffed after that but didn’t create anything clear cut.
“We now need a reaction from the players. There is still a lot of football to be played and hopefully we can pick things up again.”
Next up for the Ducks on Friday night is the visit of Cliftonville, who put a spell of indifferent form behind them by defeating Dungannon Swifts 3-0 on Saturday.
The Reds boast an abundance of riches in an attack which includes the likes of Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly, and Crawford admits that if the Mallards are to spring a shock result first and foremost they will need to ensure their defence is watertight.
That might be easier said that done with centre-back Ryan O’Reilly suspended after his sending off against Town.
Midfielder Davy Kee may also be a doubt. He has been suffering with the flu and, according to Crawford, his fitness will be assessed during the week.
“On a positive note we now have numbers in the squad,” added Crawford.
“The game against Warrenpoint was the first time that I can say we had to pick the substitutes bench. Three or four good players didn’t make the squad, that’s pleasing. So we have players to come in.
“We need to really start picking up maximum points at home and trying to get something away.
“That starts with Friday night, we all know about Cliftonville’s strike force although it could be something of a blessing that Daniel Hughes has gone to Dungannon.
“Ultimately one of the reasons we are fighting to stay in this league is that we can play against the best strikers in the country. There’s no point staying in it otherwise, that’s what is all about, playing against the best.
“Everyone complains about the long journey and having to travel out of Belfast on a Friday night.
“Hopefully we can use that to our advantage, for a change.”
Crawford also hinted that manager Gavin Dykes was looking to bring in another attacking player before the end of the transfer window. If he does, that will be a seventh new signing for the Ferney outfit.

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