Belfast Telegraph

Thrilling Irish Premiership survival fight is just too difficult to call

By Scott Young

Just one glance at the bottom half of the Danske Bank Premiership table with one game to go would send a shiver down the spine of many a manager.

Carrick Rangers 32 points, Warrenpoint Town 33, Ballinamallard United 34, Portadown 35.

Beware the relegation trapdoor, boys. One will go down for sure and another will sink into a tense play-off.

As well as being too close for comfort, it's too close to call but in my mind Carrick Rangers, who are at home to the Mallards on Saturday, might not get out of the quicksand.

Gary Haveron's men are under real pressure.

They are rock bottom and one more defeat will spell the end of the road for them. That's a tough reality to grasp.

A season which has been badly disrupted by their pitch problems could yet finish on a very sour note and I wouldn't be shocked.

Sometimes it's easier when you know exactly what you have to do - a win or bust mentality can work to your advantage but the players will have to stand up and be counted.

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From a league point of view it's an absolutely thrilling end to the season and to have four teams haunted by relegation fears going into the last round of matches is incredible.

Warrenpoint Town, who are now off the bottom spot, deserve a lot of credit and praise because much earlier in the campaign they looked down and out and a lot of people, including myself, thought they were doomed.

They now have a fighting chance of remaining in the Premiership and that's a phenomenal achievement regardless of how events unfold on Saturday.

In fact, I can see Barry Gray's side doing what they need to do to escape the relegation back door.

Then there's the fear of the pain inflicted by relegation lasting a long time.

There's no guarantee clubs can bounce straight back up in the manner of Crusaders. We've watched clubs like Donegal Celtic and Lisburn Distillery hit a slippery slope.

Without the big attendances when Linfield or Glentoran visit, clubs will struggle financially.

Portadown's position is still under a cloud with the Irish FA hearing their appeal in the undisclosed payments case this evening.

I've always held the view that if a club has been found guilty of serious offences the Irish FA should be bold enough to issue heavy sanctions, even relegate clubs, but in this scenario Portadown are bringing more evidence to the table and we must wait and see what happens next in their disciplinary case but I'm sure the fans and the players just want the season to end and then go again. But in which league?

All will hopefully soon become clear.

Belfast Telegraph


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