It was a break week for Ballinamallard in the Premiership, but the senior manager Gavin Dykes took the chance to cast his eye over the reserves as they earned a 3-0 over their Ballymena counterparts.
With Josh McIlwaine, Gary Armstrong and Ross Taheny also in action it was also a chance to get a look at some senior team contenders.
“They played quite well,” said the Ducks boss. “We got a good look and it was a worthwhile exercise. There’s plenty of young potential there, but it takes time to develop that.
“The two senior guys up front scored goals and Ross [Taheny] did well at the back and he needed a game. It was important to get 90 minutes under his belt and it gives us options again.”
But Saturday represents a return to the serious business of trying to salvage Ballinamallard’s Premiership status. While Ards might be in the lower reaches of the league themselves, Dykes isn’t expecting anything less than a dogfight on Saturday, especially with Ards on a high after beating Ballymena last day out.
“They’re going well. They had a couple of poor results, but they’ve bounced back. They recruited well in January. They brought in Cameron Stewart and Ross Clarke, decent players, two players we were interested in, but they got them.
“But look we’ve got to go and win football matches. There’s no point beating about the bush if we’re going to stay in the division we’ve got to start winning, starting with this Saturday.
“We have nine cup finals left, but the next one is always the biggest. The players are after putting in a very disappointing second half performance against Dungannon. We’ve got to bounce back and we need to beat Ards, it’s simple as that.”
Dykes insists he is expecting a reaction following that dispiriting defeat in Stangmore.
“For the first time against Dungannon I was annoyed and hurt because I thought players didn’t do enough in the second half. We didn’t turn up. It was refreshing to hear senior players questioning players and questioning themselves. Now we have to get a response. If we can get a response for the next nine weeks we could be OK, if we don’t get a response we could be in serious trouble.”
The focus now is very much on catching Carrick in a bid to at least hoist the Mallards into the second from bottom place play-off place.
“The name of the game was always catching Carrick,” said Dykes. “You always want to try and catch the team above you. There’s seven points in it, alright we’ve a game in hand, but if there’s seven points in it we got to go and try and win as many football matches as we can between now and the end of the season.
“Our problem is that we’re turning in performances for 45 minutes, 50 minutes, 60 minutes, but we’ve very seldom done 90 minutes. We’ve enough experience and a good enough squad that people should grow up now and get on with it.
“If they want to be Premier Division players, their best chance of achieving that is if we stay in the Premier Division. If we go down, there’s a lot of them who won’t be taken by clubs. It’s bad on their CVs if they’re relegated. If they want to be professional footballers they’ve got to go out and be counted.”
This weekend Dykes will have to plan without Josh McIlwaine and Matty Smyth who are suspended, while David Kee is a doubt with a calf problem. However James McKenna and Stephen O’Flynn should be back in contention for Saturday’s must win encounter.
“If we play to our potential we’ve shown we can give anybody a game,” said Dykes. “If we’re not at it and we don’t put in a good performance we’ll get beaten, and if we get beaten it could be detrimental to where we are.”
Posted: 8:37 pm March 9, 2018