Belfast Telegraph

Newry City will fight to the finish in relegation battle, vows Mullen

Still believing: Darren Mullen hasn’t given up in bid to avoid the drop
Still believing: Darren Mullen hasn’t given up in bid to avoid the drop

By Graham Luney

Darren Mullen has warned Newry City's relegation rivals that his side won't go down without a fight.

With only seven games remaining, City occupy the basement position, a point behind Ards. Warrenpoint Town are 10 points ahead of the north Down men with a game in hand.

Four wins in 32 matches leaves the bottom two fearing for their Premiership futures, but Mullen says his men still believe they can avoid the drop.

The challenges don't get any easier - up next is a home clash tonight against a Coleraine side still smarting from their derby day horror show against Ballymena United last weekend.

But City's last win was at Coleraine in November and the Bannsiders were held 1-1 at the Newry Showgrounds in September.

Conceding late goals against Linfield and Dungannon Swifts have been bitter pills to swallow, but Mullen says confidence and belief in the camp remains high.

"There is confidence," he insisted. "It has been tough conceding late goals against Linfield and then Dungannon. That would hurt any team. But we have a great bunch of players who have stuck with us for years and will fight to the end.

"We knew from the first game that it was going to be a difficult season and conceding late goals hasn't helped us. Now it's about doing what it takes to survive and getting that play-off place.

"We are working with a small pool of players, a lot of whom haven't played at this level before, so we are learning as a group. But the belief is still there because I haven't come off after one game and felt any team had played us off the park.

"We have played well for large parts of the season but have lacked a bit of quality in front of goal. It comes down to fine margins and being punished for mistakes. It's an unforgiving league but we've shown we are capable of competing against anyone."

Mullen does anticipate a Coleraine backlash after their 4-0 loss at home to the title-chasing Sky Blues, but he's ready.

"I watched the Coleraine-Ballymena game and a few decisions didn't go their way," he added. "You always expect a tough game against them, and our last victory was at Coleraine and we drew with them at home. That gives us confidence to get a result. We just need to be more consistent.

"Saturday was the first time in a long time I didn't say anything to the players. There's nothing you can say when players are working so hard but a late goal gives you a kick in the teeth.

"We spoke about it in training and the character in this team cannot be questioned. The players and coaching staff are all together and it's a credit to everyone because it's a tough scenario.

"It's a mental and physical challenge for the players but we are up for the fight. This will go down to the wire and we have worked so hard to get here, so we are not going to let it go easily."

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