Belfast Telegraph

Ards' clash with Newry is big but there will be more twists to come in relegation fight: Feeney

Ard work: Warren Feeney is delighted with effort of players
Ard work: Warren Feeney is delighted with effort of players

By Graham Luney

The fight to avoid the dreaded drop from the Danske Bank Premiership will become even more tense tonight when Ards travel to Newry City, but Warren Feeney expects a few more twists and turns before one team's relegation fate is sealed.

Basement side Newry are only two points adrift of Feeney's men who occupy the play-off spot.

Warrenpoint Town are home and hosed on 34 points, so it's a desperate battle for survival between the bottom two.

Since his arrival after Colin Nixon's sacking, former Northern Ireland striker Feeney has steered the club to a 3-1 win at home to Newry, two draws against Crusaders and Glentoran as well as a 1-0 loss to Warrenpoint Town.

There seems to be fresh belief the club can hold off the challenge of Darren Mullen's side, and a victory on the road tonight would be a significant psychological blow on their relegation rivals.

Former Linfield boss Feeney, who agreed to take charge until the end of the season, says the club and supporters have made him feel very welcome and the players have risen to the huge challenge.

"Things are going well," said the 38-year-old, who was in charge of the Blues for over a year before becoming assistant manager at Newport County in 2015.

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"The board has been fantastic and the players have responded well.

"Everyone has made me feel really welcome and I'm really enjoying it. But the main thing is we've got to stay in this league.

"This is a big game for us but Newry as well, and both sides will be confident. There will be more twists in the survival fight to come.

"I can't criticise the players, they have been fantastic.

"We had to start scoring goals and keeping them out to win games.

"The players have been brilliant."

Feeney had brief stints as assistant manager at Crawley Town and Notts County following his departure from Newport.

His passion for coaching developed at an early age.

"I did my A licence at the age of 26 and always loved coaching," he added. "I like being a manager and will keep things simple for players.

"But I never look too far into the future.

"The arrangement is I'm with Ards until the end of the season and then we'll see what happens.

"I want to stay in football management and I'll see where that desire takes me."

With Larne, Crusaders and possibly now Glentoran looking at the benefits of full-time training, Feeney understands the value of it.

"A lot more teams are getting stronger and it's great to see teams like Larne and Crusaders go full-time," he added.

"I tried to bring it in at Linfield and I feel it's important to compete, particularly at European level where your fitness levels will be tested.

"Things become second nature to players in a full-time environment and they start to look after each other better."

The former Bournemouth and Luton Town striker said he wouldn't be against any proposal to switch the Irish League fixtures to the summer months.

"If it helps, it helps," he argued. "Why not make a change, it seems to work for the teams in the south and if it helps the game and (Northern Ireland manager) Michael O'Neill then why not? I'm fully behind it then."

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