Wellington seek a winning run as promotion push continues
Wellington Rec manager Stephen Donald will be hoping newly-crowned Division 1B champions Ballynahinch Olympic are still in party mode when they face his promotion chasers this Saturday, but insists his players will only have themselves to blame if they miss out on their goal this season.
The Brookvale Park men lie three points off second-placed Newcastle, but with a game in hand over their rivals, they are still very much in the mix for a place in next year’s 1A.
All in all, not a bad first term for Donald since his move from Islandmagee, but it may yet get better still. If not, then Donald is clear about why not.
He said: “I have told the players, all the matches we have drawn will come back to haunt us. There were a few at the start, against Portaferry and UUJ, and no harm to them, but we should have been beating them.
“Then we missed two penalties against Colin Valley last week. If we score them, we beat them, but we ended up losing 2-1. Then Newcastle score the winner in their match in the 92nd minute.
“Now we have got a situation where five of our last six games are away from home. Of course we’ll go and try and win them, but we have left ourselves with a lot to do.
“I think our boys thought it would be easy, but now they know it’s not. This is a hard, aggressive league, and you have to work hard to get the points.”
It has all been a new experience for Donald and the players he took with him from the Premier Division Islanders on his journey into the Amateur League’s third tier, like Michael Moore, Andy Phillips, Stuart Hilditch, David Harrison and Andy Waide.
Particularly so for the latter, who was switched from his long-held outfield position as a short-term stand-in goalkeeper in place of Harrison. And such was Waide’s surprising form between the sticks, the manager was left kicking himself for not leaving him there upon Harrison’s return to the side last weekend.
With a wry smile, Donald revealed: “Waide had kept three clean sheets in a row before that… if we had kept him in nets, we mightn’t have lost the Colin Valley! I thought we could do with his guile, but he went and did his back in.”
Donald will hope to welcome the experienced Waide back into the side for what will be a must-win encounter for Wellington if they want to stay in the promotion hunt.
Yet Donald is philosophical about the future, even if his side do happen to miss out on a top-two place on this occasion, and believes it is something that will happen sooner rather than later.
He admitted: “This year, I didn’t know most of the teams we were playing against or even where they played. But I’d like to think I’ll be in a better position next year.
“I’ll know what we need to bring in to get promoted. I have seen everyone at this club, and I have given everyone their chances, so now we know where we are.”
However, the irony is that no-one at Wellington knows where the side will be next season. The only certainty is that if they complete the job on this challenging final stretch, they will have done it the hard way.