Why Warrenpoint were heartened despite defeat to Linfield
Warrenpoint 0 Linfield 2
After trailing 1-0 to champions and league leaders Linfield just 47 seconds in and losing talisman Alan O'Sullivan on seven minutes, Warrenpoint Town fans would have feared the worst.
Remembering how in their previous game with the Blues in October they were thrashed 7-0 at Windsor Park, another hammering looked on the cards.
Unlike that night when Town went under with Stephen McDonnell losing his job a couple of days later, Barry Gary's side stood firm on Saturday with Danny Wallace and young Ben Mullen excellent at the back.
It wasn't until injury time when Shayne Lavery nipped in to score, adding to Andy Waterworth's superb lobbed opener, that the home side conceded again.
The result took the Blues two points clear of Coleraine, three ahead of Crusaders, four in front of Cliftonville and increased the gap between themselves and Glentoran to seven. To think David Healy's men also have games in hand.
Without O'Sullivan and a host of other key absentees, bottom-of-the-table Warrenpoint were never going to defeat Linfield but their battling performance gave Gray hope on the back of stunning Milltown wins over Coleraine and Ballymena United in recent weeks.
He said: "In the last Linfield game, they hammered us by seven and it could have been double that. This time we went in with probably a lesser team due to players being out and we conceded before 50 seconds and you are thinking 'Oh God'.
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"Then you lose your striker after that. For the boys, it would have been easy to put your head down but the players deserve credit for digging in.
"That's what has been missing here for so long. The two goals were easily avoidable but, apart from that, if you take the first minute and the last minute out of it I thought it was an incredible defensive shift against the best team in the league.
"Jamie Mulgrew, Joel Cooper and Andy Waterworth were quiet for most of the game. That's not through them playing poorly. That was us dealing with them and I felt largely we did very well against their key players. Obviously we don't like losing but there was enough there from us to offer hope going forward."
On O'Sullivan, Gray added: "Alan was struggling from a knock last week and we did our best to get him on the pitch. It's nothing too serious but the match came too early for him."
While Town's key striker hardly got a touch of the ball, it was interesting that Blues boss David Healy played both Lavery and Waterworth. For most of this season it has been one or the other.
"We went to a back three and Chris Casement was our only option to play on the right hand side with Kirk Millar suspended," said the Linfield chief.
"We came up with the formation during the week and Chris playing on the right wing, where we knew he could do a good job, freed up another position which allowed us to bring Jordan Stewart in and get both centre forwards on the pitch.
"It's great that both Andy and Shayne scored because that will give them confidence ahead of a busy period."
WARRENPOINT: Byrne, Bennett, Reilly, McVeigh, O'Connor, O'Sullivan (McCann, 7 mins), Young, Watters (Murnaghan, 70 mins), Cowan, Wallace, Mullen. Unused subs: Turker, O'Kane, McDonnell, Daly.
LINFIELD: Ferguson, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart, Lavery, (Shevlin, 90 mins), Clarke, Fallon, Mulgrew, Casement. Unused subs: Moore, Haughey, Kearns, Hery, McGivern, Mitchell.
Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)
Man of the match: Ben Mullen
Match rating: 6/10