Town just one point away from Premiership
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
WARRENPOINT Town moved inexorably towards the Northern Ireland Championship One title - and a place in the Premiership - with a dour 1-0 win over Loughgall at Milltown on Saturday afternoon. On a grey day, the football matched the weather with few scoring opportunities for either side.
Warrenpoint Town ...1
But on the bright side the Seasiders are now just one point away from that Premiership goal. And they can get that point on Saturday against Ballyclare Comrades, a team they slammed 4-0 a few weeks ago.
Town boss Matthew Tipton said after the game on Saturday: "I'm going to give Loughgall full credit. They came with a game plan. They were brilliant. They stifled us and they were very difficult to break down. They had nothing to play for yet they gave a disciplined performance.
“Today was all about getting three points. The league title is there to be won so it's understandable that the boys were a wee bit nervous. We didn't play as smoothly as we could but thankfully we got the goal that nicked it. We were defensively solid. We did what we had to do and Stephen Murray stuck the ball in the back of the net."
That goal came on 38 minutes. John McGuigan crossed from the left and the visiting keeper Gareth Buchanan, under pressure from top scorer Murray, dropped the ball with the alert Murray reacting quickest to poke home from five yards.
Warrenpoint began with a few changes from the team that defeated the PSNI. Stephen Maguire got a rare opportunity to prove his pedigree between the sticks as regular Johnny Parr was in New York for the big fight. Also making starts were Anto O'Reilly, Liam McKenna, Philip Donnelly - in place of Darren King, Dermot McVeigh and Conor McMenamin.
That Murray goal was the only incident of any note in an uneventful opening half.
But after the break the action got a little better and the visitors, who incidentally had local Bessbrook lad Stephen Ferguson playing well in midfield, had a scoring opportunity on 49 minutes. Mark McConnell was through on goal but Reilly got a toe to the shot to deflect it inches past the angle of post and crossbar.
Still the Point could have doubled their advantage on 54 minutes. McGuigan broke clear on the left and set up the galloping Murray who connected right-footed but the Loughgall net-minder Gareth Buchanan dropped to save - at full stretch.
The Seasiders had another scoring opportunity on 73 minutes. Murray sped down the left before pulling the ball back to Ruairi Croskey; but Buchannan got a hand to the shot to deflect it for a corner. Croskery tested the keeper once more a minute later but net-minder was equal to it.
In injury time substitute Aaron Traynor hooked the ball across the face of the Loughgall goals but the in-rushing McGuigan just failed to make contact.
Seconds later the final whistle sounded and the Town had grabbed another vital three points and had also maintained their long-standing unbeaten league record.
Warrenpoint have not lost in the league since September ... and since Tipton took charge. On that super unbeaten run the boss said: "I'm taking so much pride in that we haven't lost since September. And why shouldn't I? But it's not me; it's the players. It must be 20 games unbeaten. But I want our boys to go 26 or whatever. If we don't get beaten from September until the end of the season, it will be some achievement."
The Town didn't concede against Loughgall and indeed they have only conceded one goal in the past six games. On that goal that Warrenpoint gave away the previous week against the PSNI, the boss said: "We're pleased with the defensive record in the last six weeks but I was furious at conceding a goal last week. The boys put lots of work into training to keep clean sheets, only to throw it away by conceding a silly penalty."
When asked how he would keep the players motivated for the remaining five weeks, if (and when) Warrenpoint win the league against Ballyclare, Tipton said: "The players have personal things to play for. As well as the club and the team winning the league, each player has individual goals. Can Stephen Murray finish as the top scorer in the league? Can we keep the most clean sheets? Can we set a record for the most consecutive games without defeat? These are the challenges we are setting the players."
On next week's game against Ballyclare, Tipton continued: "We're 18 points clear of Institute and 17 clear of Ballyclare who can't catch us.
We want to win the league and we want to win it in style. I have no intention of playing for a draw against Ballyclare. I want to win games of football.
People don't pay money to watch us nick a nil-nil. If we're going to win the league next week, we want to win it in style.
Although if we draw and win the league, I'll be bouncing off the roof; I'll be delighted."
Warrenpoint Town: Stephen Maguire, Anto Reilly, Jordan Dane, Stephen Moan, Liam McKenna, Josh Lynch, Liam Bagnall, Philip Donnelly, John McGuigan, Stephen Murray, Ruairi Croskery with subs: Lorcan Forde for Donnelly (66), Aaron Traynor for Croskery (77), Curtis Dempster for Murray (87).
Loughgall: Gareth Buchanan, Ruairi McDonald, Jamie Rae, Christopher Elliott, Mark Steward, Stephen Ferguson, Mark McCullough, Marcus Dallas, Jordan Baker, Andrew Hoey and Mark McConnell with subs: Jake Uprichard for McConnell (65), John Uprichard for Baker (72), Paul Stretton for McCullough (83).
Send to a friend
Please complete the following form to inform a friend about this page.