Ballinamallard United boss Whitey Anderson believes his side is now facing the biggest test of their fledgling Danske Bank Premiership tenure.
After a fairytale first half of the season, a run of five defeats in their last seven league fixtures has brought a harsh dose of reality for the Fermanagh men, the latest coming in a disappointing reverse at the Showgrounds on Friday night.
“I think first and foremost Ballymena deserved to win it. They were the hungriest team from the start, simple as that,” reflected Anderson.
“It’s been a great season but we’re now hitting that wee spell that everyone said we would hit with a few injuries and suspensions
“I’m just glad we’re sitting with the points that we have.
“We felt at one stage we could really push for top six but now we’re going to have to work even harder to achieve that.
“We’ve tried to get a few players in and couldn’t get them so I have a couple of young boys in the Reserves and I’m going to give them their head and see how they get on.
“There’s no point having them if you don’t use them. Some of them might come in and do really well – we won’t know until we try.
“I’m still trying to get one other player in – we’ve tried a couple and it didn’t work out but hopefully we can put them on the long finger for next season as it’s hard to get players to leave clubs in the middle of the season.”
His opposite number Glenn Ferguson could afford a wry smile, not only as a result of ending a dismal sequence of seven league games without a win but also after seeing the impact made by new signing Shane Dolan, who marked an impressive debut with a neat goal, to add to strikes by defenders Chris Rodgers and Davy Munster.
“The catalyst for it all was Shane Dolan coming in up top, holding the ball up and bringing people into play, good feet, god in the air and he gave everybody a lift,” said ferguson.
“But it wasn’t just his performance – his presence just gave the rest of the team a lift.
“That’s one new face in, hopefully if we can get another two in it will give everyone an even bigger lift.”