Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena's perfect 10 bid facing big Town challenge


Huge game: Stephen McDonnell faces the league leaders but is delighted with the way Warrenpoint are playing
Huge game: Stephen McDonnell faces the league leaders but is delighted with the way Warrenpoint are playing

By Steven Beacom

Warrenpoint Town manager Stephen McDonnell insists his side will relish the opportunity to stop Ballymena United making it 10 wins in a row today.

David Jeffrey's team are on a record-breaking run of form that has seen them jump to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership, but the Ballymena boss is well aware the trip to Milltown represents a tough challenge.

And that's despite the Braidmen triumphing 6-1 in the league on their last visit to Warrenpoint in September.

Back then few thought Ballymena would be title contenders. Even less were convinced that Town would stay up as that was their fifth out of six straight losses to start the campaign.

McDonnell's tactical awareness and the never-say-die attitude of his squad has seen them beaten only twice in their last 12 league games. In that time they have overcome Cliftonville and Coleraine on home turf and drawn away to Linfield and Glenavon.

"It's a huge game for both teams. They are going for 10 in a row and we are trying to keep our little run going," says McDonnell.

"We watched the 6-1 game back this week and all their attacks ended in goals and when we attacked it was either a top save or the woodwork saved them.

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"It was one of those games where it could have been 6-5 or 6-6. We were in a different place at that time and now everyone is starting to see how we do things as a team. Our performances and results are telling that story for us.

"I knew myself when it was tough that things would come good. I'm not saying it's perfect, it's far from it, but we'd never been outside the bottom two in the top flight and then last season we finished 10th and now we are sitting joint eighth having an opportunity with some decent results to sit top of the bottom six, so that's good going.

"Hopefully we can get another good result, whether that be a win or a draw, but we know it will be difficult as Ballymena are excellent.

"It's great to see Davy (Jeffrey) changing because his values were always a 4-4-2 organised outfit and all of a sudden they are playing 3-5-2 and this free-flowing football. It's really entertaining.

"It's one thing though to be entertaining, you still have to get results and they are doing everything. They have a really good mix of players and he has a heck of a squad on his hands."

McDonnell, however, will be without some of his most instrumental players this afternoon.

"Francis McCaffrey and Conall McGrandless are suspended, Simon Kelly has a thigh injury, Dean Watters and Anto Reilly aren't back yet and Stevie Moan is long-term so we are down a good few, but we'll not make excuses," adds the Town boss.

"We will still have 13 first teamers and have to come up with an idea to try and get a result."

Ballymena have absentees themselves. They are missing midfielder Reece Glendinning, who fractured his ankle in his last weekend's 2-1 victory over Linfield and will be out for several weeks. Goalkeeper Ross Glendinning is still absent with a shoulder injury while defender Scot Whiteside is out due to a hamstring issue.

It will be interesting to see if Jonathan McMurray plays a part at Milltown given that Linfield have informed Ballymena they intend holding talks with the transfer-listed forward.

Even more compelling is whether the Sky Blues can maintain their incredible form. In their last seven victories they have been successful by the odd goal which shows they have title character as well as class.

Warrenpoint T vs Ballymena Utd

Danske Bank Premiership:

Milltown, Today, 3pm

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