Whitey Anderson sounds rallying cry for Ballinamallard's survival hopes
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Ballinamallard United v Crusaders (Tonight, Ferney Park, 7.45pm)
BALLINAMALLARD United boss Whitey Anderson has vowed to “battle for every point” between now and the end of the season as they bid to preserve their hard-earned Premiership status.
Now in their fourth season in senior football, the ‘Mallards are second from bottom and just one point better off than Warrenpoint Town.
They narrowly lost their last two league encounters to Glenavon and Linfield and face another daunting assignment at home to defending champions and league leaders Crusaders at Ferney Park this evening.
The Crues recovered from their shock 4-3 defeat to struggling Carrick Rangers seven days ago with a hard-won 2-0 victory over Dungannon Swifts last weekend, thanks to two moments of magic from star player Paul Heatley.
“In many ways, the Carrick result [against Crusaders] was a bad result for us because if there was a complacent result it’s probably out of the way now for Crusaders,” said Anderson.
“So they’ll be going out with all guns blazing against us. But we battled to get into this league and we’re going to battle for every point to stay in this league.”
The Crues drew 1-1 on their last visit to Ferney Park – and Anderson would doubtlessly accept a similar outcome tonight.
“People ask me: ‘Who do you watch out for in the Crusaders team?' I said: ‘Who do you not watch out for?’
"They have Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens, they have Michael Carvill and the lad [Jordan] Forsythe is scoring goals. They are so dangerous from set-plays, they’re such a big, physical side and you have to be on the money when you’re defending against them.
“The Carrick defeat was a freak result. For anyone to score four goals against them is quite incredible.”
Anderson has assembled arguably the most talented squad since guiding the Fermanagh club into senior football but they’ve been sorely hit by absenteeism this season.
“I think this squad is better than last year and the year before but unfortunately things haven’t clicked,” Anderson acknowledged.
“We had to bring in three strikers at Christmas and we’ve been hit badly by injuries. We played Coleraine in January and eight of that 16-man squad were unavailable against Glenavon recently.
“We’ve lost key players but what’s been good is being able to blood a few of the younger players – our two full-backs [Davy Elliott and Ryan Morris] bring a lot of energy and have no fear and that’s a real plus. It would be great if they’re playing Premiership football next season with us.”
Although Anderson’s men have won just three games in their last 10 league outings the manager is “absolutely confident” the ‘Mallards have the talent and experience to avoid dropping back into intermediate football.
“I’m confident that with the squad of players we have we’ll get out of this, absolutely confident,” he said.
“I genuinely mean that. If we keep digging in and don’t get detached before the split I think we can stay in the division. I feel the likes of Ivan Sproule and Stephen O’Flynn have so much to offer in the last five games.”
Second-placed Linfield, five points adrift of Crusaders, will be hoping Ballinamallard can do them a favour tonight but the Blues have a tough assignment of their own away to Warrenpoint who are also fighting for their Premiership survival.
Elsewhere, Glentoran host Coleraine and Portadown's interim boss Pat McGibbon will be aiming to bag his first league points away to Dungannon Swifts this evening.
“These are all crucial games for everybody," Anderson added. "We’ve six games left now and we have to dig it out but all the teams down at the bottom are in the same boat.”