Ballinamallard are looking to make it five wins on the bounce as they travel back up the M1 this weekend, this time to take on fourth from bottom Ballyclare.
The Comrades have endured indifferent form of late, but Harry McConkey knows Ballinamallard seldom ever get anything easy at the south Antrim venue.
“Dixon Park has been a place where we are renowned for finding it difficult. I have to say in fairness to them, and they’re a former club of my own, they have worked hard this year and anything I have seen of the pitch this year it looks conducive to playing good football.
“Last year we went there on a Friday night and, while we lost 2-0, I don’t think that reflected our performance. There were key moments in the game where we failed to convert great opportunities. Then we got stung with a deflected goal from a set piece just before half-time.
“We want to put that right. We know we beat them 5-0 at home, but there was the sending off of their captain Curtis Woods and the game was in the balance at that stage.
“They have had a few blows and knocks, but Paul Harbinson is now the manager, replacing Stephen Hughes, and Paul has great experience from Ballymena Utd under David Jeffrey. He has them really well organised and they drew 0-0 with Dundela last Saturday and we know how hard a place that is to go. There is no game you ever go out in this league thinking this is going to be an easy touch.”
The Mallards recent run of form has been built on a reasonably consistent team selection, and is all the remarkable for having been achieved in the absence of captain Clarke.
“Richard Clarke is still another two or three weeks away, but that’s been a great thing, that we been able to do so well with our captain being out so long,” said McConkey. “Chris Kelly has been a constant, Duwayne McManus and John Edgar have stepped in there and we were able to introduce John Currie on Saturday and get him some game time. Sean McEvoy is another one who can play in that position.”
Elsewhere there are some doubts about the availability of Aaron Arkinson for the trip to Ballyclare, but McConkey says, if anything, competition is becoming even more intense.
“Aaron Arkinson rolled his ankle pretty badly last Thursday night which was why he was out of the game for last Saturday, and we’re not sure just yet whether he’ll be in contention for this weekend.
“We’ve had Darren Freeman down last Thursday too and he’s looking in good shape. He still has GAA commitments with Clones so he’ll not be available for a while, but he’s looking sharp in training.
“Darragh McBrien scored a hat-trick for the u20s and Sam Robb scored a couple of great goals too. Ryan Morris has come back from his dead leg, but had a wedding at the weekend which ruled him out. All those boys are knocking at the door and will be pushing hard to make an impression.
“We have the Northwest semi-final coming up this Tuesday away at to Limavady and that will be an opportunity for us to give players game time. It’s also an opportunity to get to a cup final and we don’t want to throw that away either.”
Posted: 6:43 pm October 11, 2019