Belfast Telegraph

Linfield cannot panic yet: Gault

By Stuart McKinley

Michael Gault is refusing to let panic set in at Linfield as the Blues begin their fight to move away from the foot of the Premiership table.

The challenge to get off the bottom starts against Warrenpoint Town tonight, with the newly promoted club boosted by a cash bonus of more than £250,000 that will prepare them for European football!

Town have been handed the windfall by Newry and Mourne Council and while this evening's game will take place at Stangmore Park, Dungannon, the next time the teams meet the match will take place at Warrenpoint's Milltown home, once a major redevelopment is completed in December.

Originally Warrenpoint were due to receive £170,000, but last night the council agreed to provide £225,250 plus VAT to provide two seated stands and a new terrace area.

"We need to have the team playing as soon as possible in front of their hometown supporters," said SDLP Councillor Connaire McGreevy.

"The story of the club and its rise through the ranks of junior and intermediate football has been truly inspirational.

"It underlines that with the support of the community and with the necessary visionary leadership on and off the pitch dreams can become a reality.

"The bonus for Warrenpoint Town is that is that the club will be able to get immediate access to other grant support and add value to the facilities."

Who would have thought when the fixtures were released in June that Warrenpoint would be two places and one point ahead of the Blues by the time they met in the first week of September?

That's how things stand though, with Linfield drawing with Portadown and Glentoran either side of defeats to Cliftonville and Crusaders in their opening four games.

And even though the pre-season excitement and optimism that surrounded Windsor Park has taken a hammering, Gault can see brighter times ahead.

Indeed the Blues captain is challenging both himself and his team-mates to turn their early season form around and put together a run that will shoot them up the table.

"I haven't looked at the league table. I know we're bottom, but I haven't seen it in black and white and I don't think I want to," said Gault.

"We knew that the first four games were going to be tough, but we were relishing the challenge at the start of the season. The results just haven't gone our way.

"Now that we are into September the next seven games – on paper – would be considered more winnable, but Warrenpoint aren't going to make things easy for us.

"We saw what happened last season when team's underestimated Ballinamallard at the start and they had a great season."

Gault has a list of reasons why there is no need to set alarm bells ringing at Windsor Park.

He was encouraged by Saturday's performance against Glentoran when the Blues battled for an hour with 10 men and should have done better than claiming a scoreless draw.

The fact that there are only four league games gone out of a 38 match programme means there is plenty of time to recover.

And with Andy Waterworth (pictured) about to return to full training after breaking a bone in his leg, the hope is that he can bring a spark to the team.

"Having Andy Waterworth back will be massive for us. It can't happen quickly enough and when he's back he will bring goals to the team," said Gault.

"Philip Lowry is due back soon too and we're still waiting for Mark Haughey to get fit.

"There's no panic in our dressing room, but there is frustration.

"We stepped up to the mark when we went down to 10 men against Glentoran and we were unfortunate not to win the match.

"We played well, created chances and there were plenty of positives for us to take.

"We now need to keep playing like that and if we do then things will turn for us."

Clawing their way up their table from bottom to top – as is the aim – will be far from easy though, with Gault expecting this season's title battle to be more intense than ever.

"There's no getting away from the fact that our form hasn't been good enough, but there's so much more to it than that," said Gault.

"The league is more competitive now than I can ever remember and teams are going to be dropping points all over the place – we saw that on Friday night when Portadown beat Cliftonville.

"There isn't just two or three teams challenging for the league this year. Any one of five or six teams could win it.

"Portadown were second two years ago and they have a great squad. Cliftonville are obviously the defending champions, Crusaders are strong and Glentoran are always there."

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