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TALK OF TITLE WIN IS WALTER OFF DUCK'S BACK FOR LANT.

Byline: MAXIE SWAIN

ERNIE LANT insists Ballywalter Rec will stay grounded after they chalked up an 11th league win of the season with a 4-1 rout of Ballynahinch United on Saturday.

The victory allowed the hosts to open up a three-point gap at the top of the 1B table, with nearest rivals Rosario not in action after their game away to Mossley was postponed.

Lant's men have led the way at the summit for much of the season, confounding those who dismissed their early season form as a flash in the pan. Nevertheless, even though Ballywalter's current trajectory could be enough to propel them into 1A next season, the Davidson Park chief cooled talk of promotion, maintaining instead that survival, something which has long since been secured, was his only concern.

"We're just hanging in there," said Lant.

"We are only a small village, a small club so we're not getting carried away with ourselves.

"I think this is the best position Ballywalter have ever been in after this amount of games in 1B but we'll not be getting ahead of ourselves. I know it sounds a bit silly but that result yesterday put us 24 points clear of them at the bottom because the main thing for us was to get clear of that.

"Honestly, we're not looking at winning leagues, we are not looking at it that way, we are just taking one game at a time.

"We are competing against teams from the town, the likes of Rosario and St Luke's, so it's not easy, plus you have the likes of Barn and Dromara, all these teams have been there and done it before, so this is all new for us.

"There is no pressure on us, we are in a good position, we can just go out and enjoy each game and see what happens."

Of course Lant has every right to avoid title talk, but the fact remains Ballywalter are bang in the middle of the race for 1B.

He's right, too, to say the Belfast clubs have an advantage, largely by dint of the vastly superior player pool there is in the city compared to a footballing outpost like Ballywalter.

But realistically, he knows they are in with a chance.

Any team which combines the two most important facets of the game, defence and attack, almost always goes close, and with the second most prolific strikeforce in 1B, plus the best defensive record, the omens are good for Ballywalter.

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you we are going to win the league but I have always said that when we get our full team out, I do believe we can compete against anybody," said Lant.

"We showed that against Immaculata the other week, they came down here and we knew they weren't going to walk over us and we gave them a game."

Josh Dunlop, Daniel Edgworth, Michael Corkun and teenager Matthew Moore were on target for Ballywalter on Saturday in what was an emphatic response after going down to a late winner at Dunmurry Young Men last time out.

"It was good to bounce back after the previous game," said Lant, whose team make the opposite journey for the second leg of their league doubleheader against Ballynahinch this weekend. "That was hard to take, Dunmurry scored in something like the 95th minute.

"We deserved a point from it, we didn't play very well, both teams were as bad as each other that day, we certainly didn't deserve to lose but that's the way it goes.

"So it was good to bounce back on Saturday.

"It was comfortable for us but we'll not be going down to Ballynahinch this Saturday and taking anything for granted."

CAPTION(S):

leading the way Boss Ernie Lant is keen to play down expectations despite his side's impressive table-topping form
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 6, 2018
Words:644
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