Belfast Telegraph

Crues edge it but Gray can see brighter days

Warrenpoint Town 0 Crusaders 1

By Steven Beacom

Warrenpoint manager Barry Gray believes his team are heading in the right direction despite suffering a narrow defeat at home to Crusaders.

The Seaview club's record goalscorer Jordan Owens was on target in the first half to score the only goal of a hard-fought affair at Milltown leaving Town at the bottom of the table three points adrift of Institute.

The previous weekend Gray's men had stunned Coleraine to win 3-1 and while they couldn't repeat the outcome against the Crues the manager was pleased with the commitment and desire of his team.

"We stayed in the game for the entire 93 minutes against a very good side and I don't think we could have said that about many games this season before last weekend.

"So the players deserve credit for that. They have taken simple instructions on board and are digging in, working well to our system and although I'm disappointed to lose I think we are moving forward and can take positives out of the game.

"The boys are working hard and that's what we need because we won't get off the bottom of the table without that work ethic."

Gray argues that given the tough nature of Warrenpoint's recent fixtures they are slightly ahead of schedule in his plan to avoid relegation.

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"The Crusaders game was the fourth of a run of five games that we had free against opposition at the top of the table and we are three points ahead of ourselves given the result versus Coleraine," said the Milltown boss.

"Everyone is gutted that we didn't get something out of the Crusaders game but it's nice going into a changing room and seeing that, especially having been hammered 4-0 by Crusaders earlier this season.

"It hasn't been easy for the boys with the fixtures but I've been pleased with their commitment and we need to keep that going."

Gray said he had no issues with the Crusaders goal which was adjudged to have gone just over the line despite the efforts of Town goalkeeper Mark Byrne.

"I didn't see if it was over the line or not to be honest. There wasn't much protest from our boys which would lead you to believe it was," said Gray.

In the second half, after Crusaders had chances to kill the game, Alan O'Sullivan ought to have netted for the home side and was then denied brilliantly by Howard Beverland, who was superb alongside inspirational captain Colin Coates at the back for the visitors.

"I was pleased with the performance because we were solid in what we were doing and I thought Rory Hale in midfield and our back four were outstanding," said Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter whose side are now just three points behind top two Coleraine and Cliftonville.

"I knew Warrenpoint would be defensively sound and I thought they were well structured. We worked different shapes and moved players around to open up spaces in the first half and we got the goal then which proved vital in the end."

WARRENPOINT TOWN: Byrne, Bennett, McVeigh, O'Sullivan, Doyle, Young, Forde, Watters, Cowan, Wallace, Mullen.

Unused subs: Turker, Lynch, McCann, O'Kane, Murnaghan.

CRUSADERS: Doherty, Burns, Beverland, Coates, Lowry, McGonigle (Heatley 85), Hale, Forsythe, O'Rourke, Owens, Clarke.

Unused subs: O'Neill, Hegarty, Cushley, Caddell, Thompson, McGinley.

Referee: Tony Clarke

Man of match: Colin Coates (Crusaders)

Match rating: 6/10.

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