Belfast Telegraph

Warrenpoint's 200 mile festive trip won't throw a spanner into survival bid, argues Gray

Huge opportunity: Barry Gray has overseen an improvement at Warrenpoint and is targeting victory at Institute today
Huge opportunity: Barry Gray has overseen an improvement at Warrenpoint and is targeting victory at Institute today

By Steven Beacom

Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray is not concerned that his side face a 200-mile round trip to face Institute at the Brandywell in a crucial basement battle today.

Normally Boxing Day clashes means derby duels, with players and fans having short journeys to take on the opposition.

Not for Warrenpoint. With Newry City relegated last season there is no 'Mourne Ultimatum'.

Instead it is the longest trip possible for Gray's men.

Forget the distance. All that concerns the Town boss is a performance from his side that will be good enough to collect maximum points.

The Milltown men could do with them.

Bottom of the table, they are four points adrift of nearest rivals Institute and nine behind Dungannon Swifts.

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"Others might talk about the massive journey to Derry but for us it doesn't matter. We see it as a huge opportunity for us to try and claw back three points," says Gray, who has overseen an improvement since he took over in October.

"The match with Institute is a big game.

"If our boys are up for it there is a game there, and if they are not up for it, it'll be a long day. It's as simple as that."

Disappointed to lose 2-0 at home to Larne in their last outing, Gray added: "Everyone thought we had a chance to get something from the Larne game, and after a sloppy start we got back into the game and were competing well.

"People might say in months past we would not have been able to do that, but I have to think about what we are doing now and in the next few weeks. That's my job.

"Yes, we have steadied the side and we have a system that has done that, but we also have to pick up points.

"We had hoped to build into the Institute game with something from the Larne game but, because we conceded two late goals and the fashion of the defeat, that nearly put us backwards.

"That frustration will wear off by the time we play on Boxing Day and we will look forward to the fixture with Institute."

Gray could be the busiest manager in the league.

There is a possibility that the new players coming in could hit double figures.

"We have seen green shoots defensively but we need more help for the boys in attack," says Gray.

• In today's Bob Radcliffe Cup Final at Stangmore Park (11am), Dungannon Swifts Reserves will take on Rathfriland Rangers.

The last time a Dungannon side won the trophy, Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn was in their team, back in the 2005/2006 season.

Should the clash with Dungannon's youngsters go to penalties, Rangers will certainly fancy themselves because in the Border Cup semi-final against East Belfast they won 3-0 on spot-kicks, after a 2-2 draw, with Johnny Parr saving everything in the shoot-out.

The Craig Memorial Cup Final is another Boxing Day tradition and this year Moyola Park will face Portstewart at Fortwilliam Park (11.30am).

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