Gray pointing way upwards for Warrenpoint Town
Warrenpoint Town 2 Portadown 2: Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray believes his players are feeling more like they belong in the Danske Bank Premiership with every passing week.
Despite surrendering a two-goal lead Town took a point off high-flying Portadown in an entertaining 2-2 draw on Saturday.
While Gray's side remain second bottom he feels they are chipping away at the question mark hanging over their pedigree.
"It takes us to within two points of Ballymena and the gaps are closing which is important," he said.
"We're happy with the point and will look to build on it. The important thing is the confidence of the players because it's been a big step for us, players and staff.
"We've been taught harsh lessons in the opening stages – as you'd expect – but we've nipped and tucked and worked hard on the training ground.
"It's paying off and the players are enjoying it a bit more and knowing they're good enough to play at this level.
"Every good performance, which brings you points can all be undone with one game is the problem.
"So it's about keeping positive and keeping every one focused."
Saturday's encounter certainly illustrated Gray's point as they matched the side who were morning league leaders.
"It's all about competing against the top sides," he added.
"With the players, the budget and the experience Portadown have compared to us at Warrenpoint you couldn't compare it.
"We're pleased at taking a point, because they scored two goals and we kept them at bay outside that as well as making their keeper make some good saves.
"The bottom line is we've worked very hard for 90 minutes and got a point out of it."
Gray's men were ahead with the first meaningful chance of the game after just seven minutes, Daniel Hughes outmuscling Gary Breen to fire past David Miskelly.
Nine minutes before the break Town doubled their advantage when Ruairi Devlin rounded Miskelly to tap home.
Portadown got themselves back into the game on 40 minutes when Peter McMahon got behind the Warrenpoint defence and he slotted under the onrushing Parr.
The equaliser came after 69 minutes – shortly after Gary Twigg had struck the bar – as Darren Murray headed home.
McMahon thought he had won the game 10 minutes from time but it was ruled out for offside leaving Portadown boss Ronnie McFall unimpressed.
"They were saying it deflected off the defender but he's headed it back and there's a difference.
"We lost two bad goals in the first half but we had to show a lot of character to get back into it.
"Being on top spot at this stage doesn't count for a lot, the important thing is to be in the pack."
Warrenpoint: J Parr, King, S Parr, D Hughes (Kearns 62'), S Hughes, Grant (Havern, 76 mins), Smith, M Hughes, Moan, Boyle, Devlin (Cowan, 81 mins). Unused Subs: McCabe, Havern, McGuigan
PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Breen, McMahon (Ramsey, 88 mins), Murray, Braniff, McStay, McCafferty, Twigg, Traynor (Mouncey, 88 mins), Friars. Unused Subs: Brennan, Judge, Rooney
Referee: Stephen Wallace (Derry)