Linfield 1 Ballinamallard United 3
Rising star Chris Curran has admitted high-flying new boys Ballinamallard United have been brain-washed into success after Linfield became their biggest scalp so far.
The champions were humbled in their own back yard and not even talk of a crisis at Windsor Park could take away from a stunning display by the Fermanagh men.
Blues boss, David Jeffrey, ran the gauntlet of abuse from a section of fans who have been spoilt with success but a large number of the home support also waited to applaud Ballinamallard off the pitch.
Whitey Anderson has drilled a work ethic, mixed with attacking invention, into his side and they have been reaping the rewards in the opening 10 games of the season.
The Mallards targeted Premiership survival at the beginning of their first season in the top flight but after bagging 20 points already, their ambitions remain every bit as modest.
“I don't have a clue how far we can go, it's just one match at a time,” said Curran who scored the second goal after Brian McCaul had levelled Ryan Campbell's third minute opener.
“Whitey said he wanted to stay clear of relegation and until he says different that's the ambition, even in the Championship that is what he said.
“Maybe we have been brain-washed but it is working.”
“But even this time last year if you'd said we would be beating Linfield we wouldn't have believed it, or having 20 points on the board. The thought of finishing bottom isn't necessarily gone; we can't begin to be complacent.”
“We would have said we have a chance but in the back of our minds we weren't expecting to come away with three points.”
Campbell stunned the home crowd when he opened the scoring after only three minutes.
McCaul hit bit before the break but the Mallards had plenty more to come.
Curran's breakaway run and cool finish put the Blues under the cosh and when the fourth official signalled a minimum of five minutes added time the visitors bench got nervy — for all of five seconds as substitute Liam Martin added a third with another counter-attack.
“I am running out of things to say about my players. This is like a fairy tale,” Mallards’ boss Anderson said.
“I thought I was at Old Trafford at the end, I asked why five minutes went up, I asked, but the response went in one ear and out the other.
“It was a very long five minutes, but nobody can deny us that result.”
While the visitors have been a breath of fresh air, the side who have continually set the standards, are wobbling and Jeffrey kept his shell-shocked players in the dressing-room for more than an hour.
For the first time, the all-conquering Blues players are starting to face questions about their famous hunger and desire for success.
Jeffrey said: “Our hunger and desire to be successful has been a huge part of our achievements but I know the players at this club and there isn't even the slightest glimmer of that slipping.”
“If there was, they would not longer be at the club. I am accountable for results, that is the bottom line. We have had a pretty frank exchange and the players were fully involved.”
“We are getting slaughtered for individual errors but to be quite frank, it is not good enough. That isn't just me saying that, the players are too,” he added.
The longest serving manager in the Blues' history has fought similar battles in the past 15 years and went on to lead his troops to six doubles in seven years.
Jeffrey added: “I will continue to do my very, very best at all times to make sure we improve.
“We are only 10 games in but we cannot keep going like this,” Jeffrey added.