Town show big improvement
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Warrenpoint Town 0. Cliftonville 2.
WARRENPOINT Town lost their fifth match in succession but their display on Saturday at Stangmore Park against Premier champions Cliftonville bodes well for the remainder of the season - and their fight to retain their Irish Premiership status.
True they lost 2-0, just as they did against Ards the previous week, but the opposition on Saturday was much superior and indeed the Reds were slightly flattered by the result.
After a dismal outing against Ards, many feared that cock-a-hoop Cliftonville, probably the form team in the Premier League and one going neck and neck with Linfield for the title, would brush Warrenpoint aside and rack up a cricket score.
But it wasn't to be and in fact the second Reds' goal, on 89 minutes, was a harshly given penalty after Mark Hughes appeared to accidently handle after falling on the ball.
Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray was a lot happier after the Cliftonville defeat that the one against Ards when he called his played 'gutless.'
Speaking to the press after the Reds' game the manager said he was "massively happy," and continued: "There's lots of pluses to take from today's game. It's not easy to play Cliftonville at any stage of the season - and certainly not off the back of our recent performances.
“We bossed the game for large patches of the second half and that's a massive positive for us. Credit to the players. We're obviously not happy at getting beaten. We got beaten 2-0 last Saturday and two nil today but the differences in the two performances was night and day.
“There is no doubt about our quality. I never do doubt that. But getting it on show week in and week out is what's needed. Today's performance will give the boys back that wee bit of confidence," said Gray.
Warrenpoint began strongly against the champs and had a couple of half chances in the opening 20 minutes. Big Shaun Parr, back to his best, shot over on 16 minutes and then was just inches wide a few minutes later with a rasping drive after the industrious Liam Bagnall had two shots charged down.
But gradually Cliftonville began to press and on 28 minutes Irish international Liam Boyce fired wide while Chris Curran slammed a drive off the base of the Warrenpoint posts.
Pressure though had to tell though and on 40 minutes Boyce's bullet drive found the bottom corner after the Point defence failed to clear adequately. And it might well have been two on 42 minutes but Joe Gormley missed a sitter from underneath Jonathan Parr's crossbar
Warrenpoint were playing with a strong breeze in the first half and there were fears in the Town camp that the Reds would do what they did the previous week against Ballinamallard and net five times.
But after the break Warrenpoint upped their game and might well have levelled on 52 minutes but, after great work from Ruairi Devlin and Daniel Hughes, Bagnall had a goal-bound shot blocked.
Then on 55 minutes the Reds' keeper Conor Devlin bailed out his side when he did well to keep out a thumping Daniel Hughes shot. Plus Bagnall and Hughes combined on the hour mark but a Cliftonville defender stuck out a boot to deflect the latter's shot.
However, Warrenpoint's hopes of a favourable result ended on 89 minutes when referee Raymond Hetherington harshly awarded Cliftonville a penalty even though it appeared that Hughes had accidentally handled.
George McMullan gave Parr no chance with a shot into the top corner
Still it was a brave Town performance with everyone working hard, especially the tenacious Darren King, defensive linchpin Stephen Moan, and the solid, tough-tackling midfield duo of Shaun Parr and Liam Bagnall.
Also the teenage Greg McCabe made his Irish League debut and showed lots of promise. Hopefully the 17-year-old will follow in the footsteps of his great-uncle Tom McCabe who was a prolific goal-scorer with the likes of Glentoran and Derry City.
Warrenpoint have two big games in the coming week. On Tuesday the Town host Glenavon (at Stangmore Park: 7.45 kick-off) while on Saturday they travel to Shamrock Park to take on Portadown.
On those two matches Barry Gray said: "We can't get too excited about what we did today as we have nothing to show for it. But today's display will help on Tuesday (tonight) night against Glenavon and on Saturday (March 21) against Portadown.
“We competed fairly well against Glenavon in the last game. Portadown, away from home, is always difficult but again the last time we played them we got a performance."
In conclusion Gray hopes that the days of travelling to Stangmore Park for home games will soon be over and that when the league splits they will have true home matches.
He said: "We're looking forward to getting back to Milltown. I know we haven't played a lot of games there but in the ones we have played there we performed well and got some good results."
Warrenpoint Town are back in Stangmore Park tonight (Tuesday) at 7.45pm, where they play Glenavon and on Saturday (March 22) at 3pm are away Portadown. Then the league splits in two.
Warrenpoint Town: J Parr, D King, J Cowan, S Moan, M Hughes, S Parr, L Bagnall, P Smith, S Hughes, D Hughes and R Devlin. Subs: M Havern (for Devlin: 62 mins), G McCabe (for Bagnall: 78mins), K Kearns (for Smith: 87 mins) S McMullan and T Grant both not used).
Cliftonville: C Devlin, J McGovern, B Johnston, G McMullan, M Donnelly, E Seydak, M Smyth, R Catney, J Gormley, C Curran and L Boyce. Subs M Murray (for Donnelly: 76 mins), C Doherty (for Curran: 85 mins), J Winchester (for Gormley: 85 mins).
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