Late Swift strikes denies
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Warrenpoint Town 2 Dungannon Swifts 3.
WARRENPOINT Town manager Barry Gray insisted that the fairytale is over but was quick to point out positives from Saturday's disappointing defeat to Dungannon Swifts.
A Warrenpoint win, in their first ever game in the Irish Premiership, would have been the stuff of dreams for the club, the team and it's supporters, and they came tantalisingly close when Liam Bagnall's 86th minute goal levelled the game, at 2-2, and the Seasiders looked the likeliest to snatch a winner.
But for the second time in 90 minutes Gray's men took a sucker-punch, when former Newry City midfielder Matt Hazley struck an 88th minute winner for Swifts.
It was a bitter pill for Warrenpoint to swallow but an important early lesson on what to expect in the top flight of Irish League football.
And manager Gray wasn't happy after the final whistle.
“I feel disappointment obviously with the result but being realistic the first game is gone and we can take a lot of plusses," said Gray.
“There are a lot of areas where we neat to do a bit of work on but the boys have worked hard in a big game for them and a big game for the club and that is all we can ask for now."
With work yet to start on Milltown, Warrenpoint's home games are taking place at Stangmore Park, in Dungannon, the home of Saturday's opponents but Warrenpoint Town took charge of the stewarding and running of the grounds, it is an excellent grounds, with a fantastic pitch.
Warrenpoint took the lead, with Kenny Kearns earning the honour to be the first Point player to score in the Danske Bank Premiership.
It was a clever move on 34 minutes, with Daniel Hughes taking a quick free to his brother Stephen, who ran down the right flank before squaring to Kearns, who drilled home from 12-yards.
The Point had chances to score with Stephen Hughes displaying confidence and silky skill, when surrounded by Dungannon players, he rolled the ball back and fourth before speeding past and from 15-yards out struck beautifully but Dungannon's Richard Copeland got a toe to the ball to forced a corner.
Minutes later Stephen McCabe also came close, but his cheeky lob was too high.
However, with 45 minutes played Dungannon were awarded a penalty after Dungannon's Stefan Lavery clashed legs with Liam Bagnall and Hazley converted, giving Gray little time to prepare a new team-talk.
Point started the half brightly with Ruairi Devlin and McCabe coming close to scoring but Dean McCullough headed home for Dungannon on 51 minutes.
Still Warrenpoint pushed forward and had Swifts on the back post. Stephen Rambo Hughes smashed the bar with his shot and when Bagnall curled his shot around the outstretched Dungannon keeper Gareth Buchnan, there was much elation among the Warrenpoint team and sizeable crowd of supporters.
But Hazley's late winner caught the Seasiders cold.
Gray said: "The timing of conceding the goals was a crucial factor. The penalty at the stroke of half-time was disastrous, albeit the attitude of the boys at half-time was good. We seemed to take to the field okay in the second half but then to concede the second goal five or six minutes in was a killer blow."
Mark Hughes, Jonathan Cowan and Timmy Hanna will be available for Friday night's game away to Ards, in Ballyclare, having missed Saturday's encounter through suspension, which is a huge boost, although the Seasiders will be without Stephen Hughes, who is on holiday.
And Gray is happy to get the first game over especially considering its historical significance and he is confident the squad will improve the more Premiership game-time his players get, although he targets maximum points on Friday.
“The fairytale is over - the fairytale would have been to come and win but we haven't done that, " Gray said.
“We need to go in search of our first win and the game away to Ards and we are both being pegged for the bottom two, so if you believe that, it is a six-pointer.
“The difference with experienced Premierships teams is doing enough to take all three points but we don't have that and the only way to have that experience is to keep playing games. We can't stand around feeling sorry for ourselves we will move on and concentrate on the next game.
“Decision making is a big thing and we made some decisions that we would have gotten away with the Championship and we got to learn that we won't get away with that in the Premiership but that will come over the weeks."
WARRENPOINT TOWN: Jonathan Parr, Liam Bagnall, Stephen Hutchinson, John Boyle, Stephen Moan, Ruairi Devlin, Stephen McCabe, Shaun Parr, Kenny Kearns (Andy Graham 78'), Daniel Hughes and Stephen Hughes.
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Gareth Buchanan, Michael McKerr, David McCullough, Richard Copeland, Cameron Grieve, PJ Lavery, Ryan Harpur, Matt Hazley, James Costello (Darren Boyce 69'), Grant Hutchinson and Stefan Lavery (Terry Fitzpatrick 90+1).
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