Belfast Telegraph

McDonnell sure Warrenpoint will seize chance to stride clear of rivals

Shouting odds: Warrenpoint Town manager Stephen McDonnell insists his boys will play the game and not the occasion
Shouting odds: Warrenpoint Town manager Stephen McDonnell insists his boys will play the game and not the occasion

By Graham Luney

Warrenpoint Town manager Stephen McDonnell is backing his players to rise to the big occasion against Newry City today.

A little bit of history will be made in the Danske Bank Premiership when the County Down neighbours clash on Boxing Day in the top flight for the first time.

It's a wonderful tribute to the progress made at both clubs, particularly Newry where, if it hadn't been for the dedication and loyalty of their proud support, the club would have folded.

A crowd of more than 1,000 is expected at the Q Radio Arena today and as well as carrying historic significance, the match is an important one in terms of both sides' ambitions this season.

When you find yourself in the bottom four at this stage of the season then Premiership safety is far from secure.

But Town know that victory today will lift them six points ahead of Darren Mullen's men, although City have played a game fewer after their clash at home to Glentoran last Friday was postponed following the car accident involving match officials.

While this game may not take top billing on Boxing Day, both sides are capable of playing creative and entertaining football and the fans could be in for a real treat.

McDonnell says his boys are ready for the challenge and will play the game, not the occasion.

"It's a six pointer, if we win we go six points clear of them and that's the opportunity in front of us," said the Town chief after the 3-1 loss at Crusaders on Saturday.

"It's up to the players to take these opportunities and you need to win these games to help you stay in the league. That's what we are looking to do.

"We are expecting 1,200 to 1,500 at the game and it's up to the players to step up and deliver a performance worthy of a big game.

"We didn't get a result at Seaview on Saturday and that just makes Boxing Day even bigger.

"I know Newry didn't play on Friday but I'd rather keep things ticking over at this time of year rather than have a break.

"You are trusting players to be ready for games and we'll be ready for it."

Warrenpoint are preparing to wave farewell to keeper Aaron McCarey, who will link up with Dundalk next month.

"We have Aaron available for the next three games," said McDonnell. "We hope to bring in one or two but hopefully no one else will be leaving us."

The Milltown men shut out the champions in the first half but were exposed after the break.

"The team battled well but it was a 10 or 15-minute period which cost us the game," added McDonnell.

"I felt we could go on and threaten, but we have four games in 12 days so we need to utilise our squad. The freshest team is your best team.

"Sean (O'Neill) kept them in it once or twice, we are neat and tidy but maybe don't create enough chances. We are fond of gifting goals, so in that sense we bring excitement."

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