Belfast Telegraph

Carrick Rangers won't fall out of the top flight, says McAlinden ahead of basement 'cup final'

By Steven Beacom

Carrick Rangers boss David McAlinden has outlined an inner belief that his team will be playing in the Danske Bank Premiership next season ahead of tonight's relegation crunch match away to Ballinamallard United.

Despite not winning since February and losing their last five games, McAlinden says Carrick won't just finish above the Fermanagh men but they will also triumph in a play-off with the Championship's second best side, currently Newry City.

While the race for title glory between Crusaders and Coleraine has compelled, the battle to avoid the drop has also fascinated, particularly in recent weeks with the appointment of Harry McConkey as boss inspiring the Mallards to close in on Carrick.

With second-bottom Carrick now just one point ahead of Ballinamallard with three games left, no wonder McAlinden has labelled the fixture a 'cup final'.

On the back of Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Ards, McAlinden stated: "I've always said we can stay up and no one will take that belief away from me until it is impossible.

"Right now I'm still upbeat and optimistic that we will finish above Ballinamallard and I'm sure we can get into the play-off. It will be our job to go and win that and I believe we will.

"If we play like we did in the first 25 minutes against Ards, I know we will be okay. We could have been two or three up.

"I want those 25 minutes all over again forever and ever and ever and hopefully we will have our shooting boots on when the chances come.

"We are one point ahead of Ballinamallard but don't expect us to go there for a draw. It's not in my make-up.

"It is a cup final for both teams and that's the way we will be treating it. There's nothing worse than losing the way we did against Ards when we felt we should have won the game.

"Now I can't wait for my team to get back on the pitch and my players will feel the same way."

Tonight, McAlinden will serve the final match of a five-game touchline ban. He won't be allowed into the dressing room, but insists his team will be well prepared.

"They'll be going well equipped with information about how to win the game," he said.

"They know what is required. I've been a player, and what managers do and say can have some impact at half-time but it is not the be all and end all.

"It is not ideal that I'm standing behind a wall and not in the dug-out. It's a harsh lesson for me as a young manager and it's something I'll take on the chin."

McConkey has lost only one match in five since replacing Gavin Dykes in March. He is hoping that the Ballinamallard players deliver in what is their biggest match of the season to date and will send them out full of commitment and desire.

Should the Lakeland men earn victory they will jump above Carrick entering the final straight.

The last two games for the clubs in relegation peril see Carrick playing away against Glentoran and Warrenpoint Town with Ballinamallard travelling to Ards and the Glens.

Belfast Telegraph

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